26 July 2019
Professor Rafael Leal-Arcas, Jean Monnet Chair in EU International Economic Law at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), organised and hosted the third of a trilogy of conferences on international economic law and governance in the framework of his Jean Monnet Chair in EU International Economic Law, the first ever Jean Monnet Chair in this field to be awarded in the UK by the European Union.
The theme of the workshop was 'Governance from the bottom up: Empowering the citizen in sustainable trade.'
The speakers of the workshop were delegates from the World Trade Organization, the European Commission’s DG Trade, The Energy Community Secretariat, as well as professors and senior researchers from various universities working on the complex topic of sustainable trade.
The use of behavioral economics (i.e., the study of psychology as it relates to the economic decision-making processes of individuals and institutions) in public policy has been increasingly on the scientific agenda. In energy policy, efforts to steer people towards “better”—that is, more energy efficient—choices and behaviors are much needed. There is increasing evidence that the right incentives do spur behavioral change. This has certainly been the case in Nordic countries, where the so-called Nordic model has failed in top-down policies (such as the creation of common defense policy, a single currency), but has been very successful in the design of bottom-up approaches to policies with the right incentives and market integration. The scientific shift in the governance of sustainable development implies putting citizens at the center of this process. This phenomenon described as a ‘bottom-up approach’ to the democratic implementation of climate change mitigation plans is one of the mega-trends of the 21st century (Esty 2017).
The above raises the following questions: How about the governance of international trade? How can it be governed from the bottom up so that there is an open trading system in political, legal, and economic terms? How can we have greater involvement of civil society? How can we empower citizens? Traditionally, trade policy has been conducted by trade diplomats. Should we not listen to citizens’ concerns and those of small and medium enterprises? Thus, I propose a bottom-up process in trade, with greater citizen participation, which has been a big success since 2016 in the climate change field.