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World Association of International Studies

Post A Visit to the World Trade Institute, Bern
Created by John Eipper on 02/06/15 6:37 AM

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A Visit to the World Trade Institute, Bern (Patrick Mears, -Germany, 02/06/15 6:37 am)

My thanks to John E for posting my previous note and question.

I visited the World Trade Institute in Bern (Switzerland) yesterday, and was given a tour of the facility and sat in on a class. The Institute was founded in 1999 and was incorporated into the University of Bern two years later. Its facilities are located on the university's campus, which is uphill a short distance from the Hauptbahnhof on the edge of the Altstadt. The Institute, whose website is www.wti.org, is dedicated primarily to instruction in topics of world trade and economics, although it operates also as a think tank that conducts related research projects. The organization offers a doctoral and a masters program and has a partnership with McGill University in Montreal. The Institute also offers a Summer Program and weekly courses on various trade topics and a research fellow program for those who wish to pursue a world trade topic using the resources of the organization.

The highlight of my visit was sitting in on a class on the topic of negotiating world trade agreements. The weeklong class was taught by Dr. Edwini Kessie, originally from Ghana who now resides in Port Vila, Vanuatu. He is the Chief Trade Adviser for the Forum Island Countries and is presently engaged in negotiating a regional trade agreement on behalf of those countries with New Zealand and Australia. The issue that the class of perhaps 35 students was to negotiate tariff levels on various classes of traded goods among four mythical countries: two developed countries, one developing country and one least developed country. The main sticking point during this session arose from the LDC delegation's desire to obtain from the developed countries cash assistance in return for tariff concessions. The students, who were from 15 countries including Chile, Argentina, Russia, Ukraine, the United States, India and a number of smaller nations, were divided into four groups representing each "country." The groups would negotiate privately for a while and then continue the negotiations openly. Dr. Kessie would then comment on their strategies, etc. and then another round would begin. I thought that the exercise was extremely well done and Dr. Kessie was an excellent source of information, tips and the like for his students (and myself).

All in all, this was a helpful experience for me in preparing for my world trade law class, which begins this coming Monday.

JE comments:  This pedagogical model seems to take a page out of MBA programs, but "gaming" activities of this sort are increasingly being used in many learning contexts.  (The lecture-listen-regurgitate method is definitely a thing of the past.)

Best of luck to Pat Mears as he enters the classroom next week.  Perhaps if he has a minute he can comment on the prices in Switzerland.  With the recent rise in the Franc, an already expensive country must now be stratospherically so.

(Perhaps we could also talk about European mortgages that have been indexed to the Swiss Franc.  They now are about 20% more expensive.  This rise has had a devastating effect in some Eastern European countries.  My sister-in-law Justyna dodged that bullet, as her mortgage is in Polish zlotys, but some of her friends are not so fortunate.)

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