The Institute for International Trade at The University of Adelaide has conducted extensive trade-related research in both academic and applied settings over the past 15 years.

Our objectives include:

  • promoting the development of an open, rules-based international trading system through the widening of participation in the global economy
  • improvements in the practice of international trade policy and support of development cooperation projects that seek to address regulatory and capacity constraints at national and regional levels.  

Drawing on our extensive network of distinguished researches and experienced trade practitioners, IIT brings together discipline knowledge and practical expertise to conduct research that helps shape public policy, facilitates wider and more effective participation in trade and promotes economic development across the globe.

Our research spans Africa, South East Asia, Europe, the Asia Pacific, Central Asia and Latin America with a particular focus on developing economies. Much of it is conducted in support of governments, industry and coordinating bodies responsible for the effective implementation of regional and development cooperation projects and activities, with the ultimate goal of enhancing trade facilitation through the simplification and harmonisation of international trade policies and procedures, and the strengthening of local and regional capacity to effectively engage in the global economy.

Recent examples of our research and consulting activities:

  • The Circular Economy & International Trade: Options for the WTO

    IIT’s new research report for the International Chamber of Commerce addresses a key lacuna in the increasingly central nexus between trade and environment, namely how can the multilateral trading system promote circularity in international trade. Through a focused mixed of diagnosis, analysis, and case-study illumination, the report elucidates the key blockages and proffers pragmatic suggestions for how WTO members could remove them. It is essential reading for those interested in how the trading system can promote environmentally sustainable outcomes.


  • The Role of Trade Policy in Creating a Circular Economy (2021)

    Although the linear “take-make-discard” approach is still the dominant approach to economic activity, there is an increasing interest in a more circular approach – especially as an additional policy option in the drive towards greater sustainability worldwide. The initial focus of discussions on the circular economy were on minimising waste management, and on a local, community approach. This has now evolved into a broader based approach with the objective of making resource use more sustainable on a global scale – with a focus on the design and the lifecycle of products, as well as waste reduction. In this context, it is becoming increasingly clear that attention needs to be given to the role of trade and trade policies in promoting a more circular economy. This project seeks to fill a gap in research on how trade policies can drive, and potentially hinder, the development of a circular economy, and to provide concrete recommendations for WTO negotiators on how to use the tools available within the WTO to promote the circular economy.

  • Strengthening African Agricultural Trade: Building the Case for Domestic Support Entitlements’ Reductions (2020-2021)

    This project involves research and analysis of the implications of growing domestic support (OS) entitlements of all WTO Members with respect to African WTO Members' current and future economic and trade interests. The analysis is intended to inform global discussions on the need for OS reform and how DS reform (specifically the principles in the Framework) could serve African interests. 

  • Special and Differential Treatment in the WTO (2020-2021)

    This action-oriented research, dialogue, and advocacy project aims to deepen understandings of Special and Differential Treatment (SDT), and the role of trade in development in a post-pandemic world. The first phase of this project will test a range of key assumptions informing this debate through elaboration of a working paper exploring the contours of the changing international political economy of trade in relation to meanings of development and obligations associated with ‘system participation’. This will be based on a literature review and analysis of official proposals submitted to the WTO, as well as statements made by key ministers and ministerial groupings, such as the Africa Group of trade ministers. The assumptions explored in the working paper will inform the development of an opinion survey to be administered electronically, and supplemented through key informant interviews based on a structured interview questionnaire.

  • Leveraging and strategically directing Aid for Digital Trade within the Commonwealth (2020-2021)

    Working closely with the Head of International Trade Policy Section in the Commonwealth Secretariat, this project identified and listed all sources of data on Aid for Trade flows supporting digital trade and e-commerce in Commonwealth countries. Given the methodological difficulties associated with capturing financial flows supporting digital connectivity, sources of data included initiatives reported by both donors and recipients and other official flows through different means to reduce issues of undercounting. IIT then developed a conceptual framework to identify potential indicators that may encompass elements of aid supporting digital trade and the development of digital economies in Commonwealth countries. These included those with direct influence (i.e. aid for tele-communications and ICT) as well as others where there may be an element of support for digital trade within a broader programme of aid.

  • Support to the UK Negotiations Team, UK-Australia FTA Negotiations (September 2020 – March 2021)

    Providing various technical assistance and specialist studies for the UK Negotiations Team to facilitate the negotiation and conclusion of the UK-Australia FTA. Various specialist staff at IIT provided input on different aspects of the interests of Australian companies and peak bodies in the FTA, issues relating to foreign investment, competition policy, e-commerce and various other elements of the proposed FTA as required by the UK negotiations team.

  • Review of Australia’s Meat Export Inspection System (AEMIS)

    This project investigated the composition, direction, and barriers faced by Australia’s meat export industry. The focus was primarily on quantitative mapping, using a variety of data sources to map trade flows, tariff, and non-tariff barriers. The results fed into a broader review of the actual operations of the AEMIS, with the intention being to prioritise interventions according to key export markets where the prevalence of barriers is particularly high and warranting focused attention.

  • Trade Analysis and Strategic Insights on the Indian Ocean Rim Association

    This project transcended previous trade studies on IORA by investigating the nature and extent of value chain integration across the IORA region, as well as associated policy and regulatory barriers to deepening trade integration via value chains. It drew on the notion of regional ‘hubs’, or ‘gateway’ economies, to elucidate the key strategic drivers of trade integration around which a sustainable IORA trade agenda could be built. It also aimed to lead to the establishment of an annual ‘state of connectivity in IORA’ report, to be elaborated in partnership with the IORA business forum.

  • Strategic Review of Australia’s Multilateral Aid for Trade Portfolio (2019

    This project consists of a benchmarking exercise to establish best practice in Aid for Trade programs, and a resulting review of DFAT’s support program to multilateral institutions. Recommendations are being formulated and will contribute to guiding the formulation of the program’s future projects.

  • Fiji-Australia Joint Economic and Trade Study (2019)

    The Fiji-Australia Joint Economic and Trade study was a high priority in advancing the stepped-up relationship between Australia and Fiji, which sought to: Identify the barriers and opportunities for stronger and sustained growth in the bilateral trade and investment relationship; Identify measures that either or both Governments could take to address these barriers or opportunities; and Identify a select number of strategic priorities for Fiji and Australia to jointly cooperate on, and prosecute, on the global stage that would deliver mutual bilateral and regional economic benefits. 

  • Human Capital Development in Cambodia and ASEAN Integration (2017)

    Conducted in collaboration with the Education Economic Council, Ministry of Education and RUPP-Adelaide Policy Study Centre, this study addressed key gaps in human capital development in Cambodia and in relation to overall economic development in Asia.

  • Global Production Value Chain, Cities and Urban Amenities Implications for Services Trade Liberalisation in East Asia and ASEAN (2017-ongoing)

    Trade in services, global production value chains, cities and urban amenities implications for services trade liberalisation in East Asia and ASEAN are the focus of a study commenced by IIT in 2017 which examines the role of cities in creating urban networks and urban amenities, attracting and development of skills and human capital, and driving creativity. This in turn supports the development and liberalization of the services sectors and the operation of the global production value chain in the Asian region. The linkages and interactions between urbanisation, innovation, services and the global value chains form the key agenda for the next stage of development and growth in the Asian region.

  • ERIA Research Project on Services Supply Chains – Implications and Opportunities for RCEP (2016-2018)

    This project is an extension of the ‘ASEAN +1 FTAS and Global Value Chains in East Asia’ project on services from a supply chain perspective and a deeper assessment of the implications for the policy coverage and design of commitments in RCEP related to services. The project also considers: the global value chain activities (GVC) for services independent of linkages to the manufacturing sectors;
    the productivity growth impacts from participation in regional supply chains in services; and implications for labour markets of the division on value adding processes in the international supply chain model.

  • APEC Case Studies on the Role of Services Trade in Global Value Chains (2017)

    The project is focused on the development of case studies for APEC Group of Services and Market Access Group to identify the impact of sector reform on global value chains and the economy, good regulatory approaches and measures for service sector reform and development, and lessons for sequencing/ managing structural reforms.  The case studies were incorporated into the 2016 APEC Economic Policy Report on ‘Structural Reform and Services’.

  • Impacts and Benefits of Structural Reforms in Transport, Energy and Telecommunications Sectors in APEC Economies (2016)

    Coordinated for the APEC Policy Support Unit, The Impacts and Benefits of Structural Reforms in Transport, Energy and Telecommunications Sectors study investigated in detail the impacts and the potential for future benefits for households and businesses from APEC members’ implementation of structural economic reforms consistent with the APEC Leaders’ Agenda to Implement Structural Reform (LAISR) priority areas. 

  • AAANZFTA Health & Education Services Sector Policy Review (2016-17)

    The project was comprised of a comprehensive review of the health and education services sectors of ASEAN member countries with the main goal of increasing trade and investment in both sectors. The project identified impediments to trade and investments as well as assisting AANZFTA parties with the development and implementation of more effective policy frameworks. 

  • OECD Services Trade Restrictive Index

    In 2014, the Institute completed a project on services trade regulation for Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa which investigated and identified services trade regulations in 18 services sectors for the OECD under the organisation’s Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI) project.  This now provides the basis for the STRI for these countries.

  • AANZFTA Review of Non-Tariff Measures of the ASEAN-Australia New Zealand FTA (2015-17)

    In 2017 the Institute for International Trade completed a significant study on the impact of Non-Tariff Measures along the supply chain throughout the region of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia and New Zealand. Commissioned by the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) Trade in Goods Committee to fulfil Article 7(4) of the agreement’s Trade in Goods Chapter which mandates a review of NTMs, this study involved consultation with 110 businesses across six countires and resulted in the implementation of a range of key recommendations that will make addressing NTMs an ongoing part of AANZFTA’s work program.  

  • Preparing Timor-Leste for Regional Economic Integration (2012-14)

    This long-term Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded project aimed at providing the Government of Timor-Leste technical assistance in their bid for ASEAN membership.