(27 June 2023) After more than 30 years of aggressive liberalisation of international trade, investment and financial flows, is this political paradigm approaching its demise? During the next ten years it will be crucial to take decisive action against the looming climate crisis and it will be vital to make the right choices. This was the background to an inter-disciplinary research Conference ‘Future of Trade in a polarised world’ organised by the Austrian Foundation for Development Research (OFSE) from 23-25 June and in which EPSU participated. The Conference brought together progressive social forces both in the academic community and civil society that are convinced that more must be done to build a progressive agenda for international economic cooperation. In this agenda, trade is fair, balanced and redistributive, and not an end in itself.
Discussions during the two days addressed the growth of geo-politics and need for stronger multilateral cooperation, new types of trade agreements on critical raw materials, developments regarding enforcement of sustainability provisions in trade agreements and much more.
The closing panel in which Penny Clarke, EPSU DGS, participated stressed that the climate crisis is not a ‘we’ problem (see the slides from professor Juliet Schor at the EPSU public service day event – this shows that the contribution to climate change from 95% of the global population is negligible). Reducing poverty and tackling inequality within, as well as between countries is therefore important. This requires tax justice and the redistribution of wealth and income. Worker-centred trade is a common goal that includes decent work, labour rights and collective bargaining. However workers also need social protection, public services and a healthy environment. Public services have a key role to play in ensuring a just transition and shifting to an economic model that has as its objective well-being rather than profit and (in many cases excessive) consumption.