Recently, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Robert Azevêdo and Sweden’s Minister for EU Affairs and Trade Ann Linde met in Stockholm for talks on the challenges facing global trade in these times of protectionist currents.

The problem is that there are actually not that many fish left in the sea. Now I’m talking about real fish, not partners. Since 1970 we have experienced a decline in marine species populations by 49%. 29% of all fish stocks are overfished and 61% are fully fished. Some estimates show that in 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our seas.

The ambition was to conclude the EGA this weekend. We failed. A lot of finger pointing is taking place right now, as usual after negotiations stall, but trying to assign blame is not really meaningful. In trade negotiations defensive interests are usually the most difficult obstacles to get past. Even in an agreement like the EGA where the gains for all are so obvious, we could not avoid getting stuck on a few defensive positions.

In Nairobi Ministers explicitly instructed WTOs Committee on Regional Trade Agreements (CRTA) to take the lead in such a discussion. As the current chair of the CRTA I certainly will give it a go. There is an elephant in the room and it’s pretty big. It is time we start talking about it.

Globalisation is not a new concept when it comes to analysing trade patterns. But during the last decade or so research has shown that globalisation is in many ways both deeper and wider than we used to believe, at least when it comes to trade.