European Research Workshop in International Trade
Wednesday 27 October 2021
UniCredit Foundation hosted, in Piazza Gae Aulenti, the most important international economics event in Europe that, every year, brings together the best economists and researchers from the most prestigious international universities and research centres.
From 20 to 22 October, the European Research Workshop in International Trade (ERWIT) of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) was held at the Tree House of the UniCredit Tower in Milan, hosted this year by UniCredit Foundation and organised in collaboration with the University of Milan, the Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, the Horizon 2021 MICROPROD Project, the Baffi Carefin Centre and the Boroli Chair in European Studies of Bocconi University.
The European Research Workshop in International Trade (ERWIT) is the most important event in international economics In Europe that, every year, brings together the best economists and researchers from the world's most prestigious universities and research centres. A unique opportunity to discuss global economic challenges in an informal atmosphere.
This year the event was opened by UniCredit Chairman, Professor Pier Carlo Padoan, and we interviewed the promoter of the initiative, Professor Giorgio Barba Navaretti, advisor to the UniCredit Foundation and President of the Marco Fanno Fellows Association.
Prof. Barba Navaretti, in your role as Scientific Director of the Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano and Research Fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), what can you tell us about this workshop?
The European Research Workshop in International Trade is the main reference point for European economists and we are particularly pleased to have had the opportunity to organise it in Milan this year, thanks to the support of UniCredit Foundation. ERWIT is the feather in the cap of a transversal group of scholars and the active support of the Foundation has allowed us to bring some of the world's best economists working on international trade to Piazza Gae Aulenti. For example, Gene Grossman from Princeton University and CEPR and Pol Antras from Harvard University and CEPR.
Not to forget the participation of Mike Spence, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001 along with Joseph E. Stiglitz and George A. Akerlof "for their analysis of markets with asymmetric information", Beata Javorirck, Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Marion Jansen, Director of the Trade and Agriculture Directorate of the OECD, and Philippe Martin, Professor at Sciences Po and President of the French Council of Economic Analysis. Beyond the exceptional quality of the speakers and guests, I am pleased to note that the topics covered were central in understanding some of the problems of globalisation including the global value chain. Similarly, we identified focuses on labour, migration and the environment.
The global value chain model devised by Michel Porter is certainly important. But how relevant is it today?
This is a model that, adapted to a global scale, is extremely topical as it constitutes the root of the post-pandemic recovery. Economic recovery is being slowed down by bottlenecks in global production: just think of the obstruction at the port of Long Beach, which is the American gateway for Chinese containers. Or the difficulty of getting supplies to the UK due to a shortage of HGV drivers, as well as the exponential rise in freight rates. We are witnessing the paradox that the slowdown of the pandemic has led to the snarl of the global value chain. The consequence of this is, on the one hand, a tendency for production to return to the countries of origin and, on the other, a more or less explicit and widespread growth of protectionism. Biden's own inauguration has not reduced protectionist pressures in a key country such as the United States. When there is a value chain of this kind, the use of the protectionist defense causes disruptions for the national economy. Today we are faced with an increasingly complex organisation of production where to manufacture a computer assembling components produced in 10 different countries is needed, and where the proper functioning of the global value chain is crucial for the proper functioning of the economy.
So, in your opinion, having organised the European Research Workshop in International Trade in Milan at this time is of great importance?
Yes, I cannot hide the fact that events have worked in our favour. ERWIT is the most important international economics event in Europe. Let's not forget that half of the guests are American or visiting professors in the US. It is also the first major event to be held in person after a long period when participation could only take place remotely.
The perfect mix of quality and informality generated by the UniCredit Foundation's organisation is ideal for academic conferences where networking is also of paramount importance. I personally witnessed some very interesting moments of discussion and food for thought in the informal moments after the conference.
Finally, I was very pleased to note the presence in the room of numerous young European scholars (post-docs, assistant professors), and Alumni who had won competitions launched over the years by UniCredit Foundation and the Marco Fanno Association, of which I am President. And this, believe me, is a source of great satisfaction for me.