International Cooperation in 2015 Deserves a B Grade
A new report card on international cooperation finds that multilateral action on most of the critical transnational threats has shown progress, but is still inadequate in addressing terrorism and other violent conflicts.
The Council of Councils gave international efforts to expand global trade a B in 2015, an improvement from the C+ awarded in 2014, reflecting optimism on the agreement of a major free trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The Council of Councils, a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) initiative comprising twenty-six major international policy institutes, surveyed the heads of member think tanks to evaluate the world’s performance on ten of the most important issues of 2015. It offered the following grades:
Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change: A
Preventing Nuclear Proliferation: A-
Advancing Development: B+
Promoting Global Health: B+
Expanding Global Trade: B
Managing the Global Economic System: B-
Managing Cyber Governance: B-
Preventing and Responding to Violent Conflict Between States: C
Combating Transnational Terrorism: C-
Preventing and Responding to Internal Violent Conflict: C-
Respondents agreed that efforts did not worsen for any of the issues, with grades on nine of ten issues improving since last year’s survey.
Although seven issues received a B- or higher, “these were offset by dismal performance with respect to terrorism and internal conflict,” said CFR President Richard N. Haass. “The inability to end the Syrian war, which caused waves of refugees to stream into Europe from the Middle East, was one of the major failures of international cooperation in 2015.”
World trade presents a mixed picture. Sluggish trade since the 2008 financial crisis is compounded by a slew of protectionist measures, which increased in 2015. The Group of Twenty (G20) countries were responsible for 443 of the 539 trade distortions imposed in the first ten months of 2015, an increase of 40 percent over the same period in 2014.
On the other hand, 2015 saw the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. As the largest preferential trade agreement in history, the TPP will cover 40 percent of the world’s economy and reduce eighteen thousand individual tariffs once it is ratified by the twelve participating countries. Amother bright spot: global trade growth is forecast to be slightly higher in 2016, at 3.9 percent.
The Council of Councils is optimistic about progress on global trade in 2016, ranking it second in terms of opportunity for breakthrough. The momentum of the TPP may propel progress for other regional and interregional trade agreements beyond TTIP. China and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are expected to speed up talks for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).