In conversation with Shanker Singham, Director of Economic Policy & Prosperity Studies at the Legatum Institute, Sally cautioned against ignoring traditional tariff barriers in the developing world, where they remain quite high, especially applied tariff rates.

He praised a focus on the fundamentals of trade policy, and recommended unilateral reform as the most expedient option for delivering real reform. The evolving climate of the WTO has rendered multi-lateral agreements nonnegotiable—if window-dressing agreements are to be avoided, it is impractical to negotiate with 160+ partners who all have very different ideological and economic agendas. The creation of ‘deep integration’ trade agreements will require cooperation amongst like-minded nations on typically ‘difficult’ subjects, like agriculture. 

The discussion turned to the recent British referendum and its impact on the future of British trade with Europe and the rest of the world. Dr Sally delved into his experiences setting up the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels and recommended deregulating where possible, and signing on to existing deep integration free trade agreements (e.g., NAFTA).

About the Speakers

Razeen Sally is Director of European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), which he co-founded in 2006. He is also Associate Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, and Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies, the main economic think tank in his native Sri Lanka. He was on the faculty of the London School of Economics for eighteen years, where he also received his PhD. He has held adjunct teaching, research and advisory positions at universities and think tanks in the USA, Europe, Africa and Asia. He is on the Global Agenda Council for Competitiveness of the World Economic Forum, and was awarded the Hayek Medal by the Hayek Society in Germany in 2011. He is a member of the Mont Pelerin Society. Sally’s research and teaching focuses on global trade policy and Asia in the world economy. He has written on the WTO, FTAs, and on different aspects of trade policy in Asia. He has also written on the history of economic ideas, especially the theory of commercial policy.

Shanker Singham leads the Legatum Institute’s Economics of Prosperity work which examines how countries can become more productive and the role free trade—with open, competitive markets—plays in helping people of all incomes increase their prosperity. Singham has worked with governments and companies around the world on market opening and transition issues, including on the early privatisations of the UK electricity market, the former Soviet Union, the accession of Poland and Hungary to the EU, the transitions in Latin America after the apertura and the WTO accessions of a number of countries, including China and Russia.