Past Event

COVID-19, Trade, and the WTO – Resilience or Failure?

March 17, 2021
2:15 PM - 3:45 PM
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Join the Center on Global Economic Governance and the MPA in Economic Policy Management for our next lecture in the series, The World Economy: Views of Chief Economists, presenting world renowned economists from the private and public sector to discuss current global economic challenges and their perspectives of the future.

Lecture: COVID-19, Trade, and the WTO – Resilience or Failure?

With: Bob Koopman, Chief Economist for the World Trade Organization

Moderated by Jan Svejnar, James T. Shotwell Professor of Global Political Economy; Director of the Center on Global Economic Governance, Columbia SIPA

The WTO and the multilateral trading system has been under significant scrutiny during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Initial concerns over supply chain disruptions from health lockdowns were followed by concerns over many countries imposing trade restrictions and suggested that global trade would fail at a critical time of a combined global economic and health crisis. This crisis followed the great financial crisis of 2008-9, where global trade declined precipitously. In this lecture, Bob Koopman discusses how the global trading system, and the WTO in particular, has performed thus far. He will argue that while the WTO has fallen short of perfection, its framework of rules and obligations have functioned far better than many realize. An important question for global policy makers to think about is what might have happened without the WTO?

Advance registration required. Registrants will be sent a Zoom link prior to the event.


Robert Koopman is Chief Economist and Director of Economic Research and Statistics Division at the World Trade Organization. In this post Bob provides the Secretariat and Member Countries with analysis and information that promotes a deeper understanding of trade and trade policy's role in economic growth and development. Prior to this, he served as the Director of Operations and Chief Operating Officer for the United States International Trade Commission. Bob oversaw the Commission’s trade policy research and negotiation assistance to the President, the U.S. Trade Representative, and Congress; antidumping, countervailing duty, and safeguard; investigations; intellectual property investigations; maintenance and analysis of the Harmonized Tariff System, as well as the agency’s strategic planning and performance measurement initiatives. He also previously served as Chief Economist at the USITC, and various leadership positions at the Economic Research Service of USDA. He is also currently a visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.

Contact Information

Center on Global Economic Governance