The WTO Chairs Programme (WCP) http://wtochairs.org/ aims to enhance people’s knowledge and understanding of the multilateral trading system by awarding research Chairs to selected universities and/or research institutions in developing and least-developed countries. In 2014, Prof Wilma Viviers, director of the TRADE (Trade and Development) research focus area at the North-West University, was awarded a WTO Chair (one of seven recipients worldwide to receive the honour that year), heralding the start of a four-year international partnership that is built on three pillars: Curriculum development, Research and Outreach. Included in the WCP package is technical and financial support from the WTO, as well as access to a prestigious global network.
In recognition of the excellent work done by the North-West University over the past few years under the WTO Chairs Programme, the World Trade Organization in 2020 extended the Chair and reappointed Prof Wilma Viviers as Chair holder.
WTO Chairs Programme pillars
Through the WCP, the WTO aims to support the development and delivery of courses covering trade policy and other WTO-relevant topics in academic institutions.
TRADE currently offers four WTO related postgraduate level degrees:
- MCom in International Trade
- MCom in Economics
- PhD in International Trade
- PhD in Economics
Master’s and PhD students receive continuous guidance and support from designated academic staff, as well as formal training in how to compile high-impact dissertations/theses. Among TRADE’s current initiatives is the progressive development of an intensive course in Advanced Research Methodology for postgraduate Economics and International Trade students. As part of the course development process, two presenters from the WTO conducted a STATA training course for TRADE team members in September 2015.
Through the WCP, the WTO aims to promote high-level research on trade-related topics, with particular emphasis on improving the trade policy and trade facilitation environments in developing countries, while also building greater capacity within research entities.
Among the strategies that TRADE is employing to fulfil its research mandate under the WCP are: realigning its research agenda to include more WTO-geared topics; exposing researchers within its ranks to local and international experts and high-level debates via conferences, seminars, roundtables and other fora; extending more NWU and WTO bursaries to deserving Master’s and PhD students; and expanding the TRADE library as an information resource for staff and postgraduate students.
TRADE has an impressive number of publications to its credit and is continuously expanding its repertoire to address more cross-cutting themes and reach wider audiences, particularly within the policymaking fraternity.
A full list of TRADE’s outputs can be found here.
Through the WCP’s outreach component, the WTO aims to disseminate research findings and opinions within academic, government and business circles, as well as promote discussion and debate on trade rules and cooperation, and the link between trade and economic growth/development.
TRADE uses a number of channels to ensure that various interest groups are kept informed of significant developments in the international trade arena and TRADE’s latest research outputs - for example, via specially-convened seminars, symposia and roundtables; local and international conferences; and the TRADE web page. When the WTO Chairs Programme was officially launched at the NWU in September 2014 – an occasion that attracted many esteemed local and international guests – it paved the way for TRADE to establish new alliances and consolidate existing ones, which have helped to extend TRADE’s influence and advance its work programme.
For more information on the WTO Chairs Programme launch function, click here.
Examples of outreach events include:
12 March 2020: The annual the International Trade & TRADE-DSM® User Group Conference held in Potchefstroom on 12 March 2020. The conference was convened under the auspices of the North-West University’s TRADE research entity in collaboration with the university’s spin-out company, Trade Advisory, and the WTO Chairs Programme.
15 October 2020: ‘Trade Advisory and NWU-TRADE WTO Chair User Group Webinar on “Trading in the new normal”
April 2021: The AfCFTA: A game changer for Africa’s trade and development?