Event Recap: Group of 78 Luncheon

by Samuel Gendreau

On Tuesday, January 28, I attended the Group of 78 Luncheon Speaker Series featuring Dr. John Curtis, currently a Senior Fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), an Adjunct Professor at Queen’s University, and a professor in international economic policy here at NPSIA (although he is not teaching at NPSIA this year). Dr. Curtis hold a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard and was the founding Chief Economist of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The theme of the talk was “Bali and Beyond: the Future of the World Trading System,” and the event took place on the second floor of the Palais Imperial Restaurant, just a few blocks across from Rideau Center. Group of 78 monthly events usually take place in this location, as far as I know, and the premises had about 10 large round tables, each with roughly 8 chairs. All in all, there were about 60 attendees,  seemingly present or former public servants.

Dr. Curtis started his talk on a humorous note and kept his speech spiced with humor yet to the point and easy to understand even for the layman. Given his distinguished career and extensive experience in the domain of trade and economic policy, it was very interesting to hear his views on the current state of the international trading system. He noted the surprisingly positive outcome of the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference that took place in Bali last December 2013, where the so-called “Bali Package” was adopted—a series of decisions aimed at streamlining trade, allowing developing countries more options for providing food security, boosting least-developed countries’ trade, and helping development more generally.

Dr. Curtis humorously commented that while prior to the Bali meeting many viewed the WTO Doha Round as essentially dead, it could now be said to be in intensive care. In other words, the Bali Meeting essentially revived the Doha round of negotiations and renewed the credibility of the WTO, but there remains a lot of work to be done. Other topics, such as the issue of international flows of capital and trade in services, were briefly covered. Altogether, the talk lasted about 45 minutes.

The event was definitely interesting, and for the modest sum of $5 (if you choose only to attend the talk), it was well worth it. I’m looking forward to the next Group of 78 event in February!



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