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2020 WTCAF “Peace Through Trade” Competition


Following on the heels of last year’s inaugural “Peace Through Trade” Competition, the World Trade Centers Association Foundation (WTCAF) is delighted to announce the launch of the second installment of its program.

Introduced at last year’s Member Seminar, (see page 6 of the November 2018 issue of WTCA Meridian ) the WTCAF partnered with Enactus — the world’s largest experiential learning platform — to recognize students in that organization’s “World Cup,” where international teams of students present their novel ideas to solve some of today’s greatest challenges. Because trade is such a

 critical piece of fostering prosperity and peace, WTCAF recognizes four Enactus teams with a “Junior Ambassadors of Trade” award for “exemplifying and promoting social innovation and sustainability through collaboration, fair trade, and ethical business practices.”

This year Remy Swaab of WTC Panama City, WTCA Board of Directors Vice Chair and Member of the Board for WTCAF, traveled to Silicon Valley, California, to present the teams that stood out from the rest. This year these awards were presented to the national teams of Brazil, France, Korea, and Mexico.

Subsequently at this year’s Member Seminar, the WTCAF will launch its second, signature “Peace Through Trade” Competition, which asks WTC Members to contribute a participation fee and submit projects from teams consisting of their local students. Teams are asked to present an original project, product or other innovative idea that “exemplifies and promotes social innovation and sustainability through collaboration, fair trade, and ethical international business practices.” The project also needs to address at least one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Two members from the winning team will secure the opportunity to travel all-expenses paid to be recognized in-person at the 2020 WTCA General Assembly in Taipei. In addition, the WTCAF works with the WTCA Headquarters office to help draw attention to these innovative projects, the students who created them, and their local WTC. Earlier this year, Moyo Nua — founded by college students Jack O’Connor, Catherine Hallinan, Seamus Hurley, and Aoife Hand — took home the prize with their project aimed at revolutionizing the agricultural practices of developing countries (see page 14 in the June 2019 issue of WTCA Meridian ). Submitted through WTC Dublin, the student-led team was unanimously selected as the winner, traveled to Mexico for the 2019 WTCA General Assembly to be recognized, and was subsequently featured in Forbes .

Want more information? Visit the competition website to find out more about this year’s program, note key deadlines, and download all applicable materials. And to all of the WTCs and teams that submit to take home the 2020 prize, GOOD LUCK!

Commercial Real Estate Trends in Europe


Confidence is key — especially when it comes to assessing investor sentiment towards commercial real estate markets. Despite speculation that markets are due for a course correction and concerns over political instability, European investors nevertheless continue to feel a sense of cautious optimism. As a tumultuous decade draws closer to an end, these investors continue to make prime investments in commercial real estate throughout the region to maintain a sense of stability, while pursuing new opportunities brought forth by evolving lifestyle trends such as flexible office spaces.

As we head into 2020, below are some of the strongest visible trends throughout the European commercial real estate market:

A Search for Stable, Secure Investments

Most of Europe’s major markets have recovered from the 2008 to 2009 economic downturn, leaving a relatively well-balanced level of supply and demand for commercial properties. However, according to a recent PwC report, many investors are approaching the European real estate market as a means of capital preservation as Europe’s late-cycle market expresses concerns over high real estate values and asset scarcity. Opting for security over outsized profits, investments producing secure and stable returns are in high demand to ward off the potential risks of another market downturn or unexpected geopolitical shock. 

Migration Towards Alternative and Niche Properties

Prime offices situated in central business districts remain incredibly popular with investors, exhibiting all-time low vacancies and rising rents. Due to high levels of competition for prime assets, investors seeking higher returns are turning towards niche and emerging real estate sectors for high-growth opportunities. For example, new and evolving property types — such as co-working, co-living and retirement communities — are becoming more embedded in society through structural changes by which people live and work. As these alternatives become the new mainstream, investors are expected to continue flocking towards micro apartments, flexible offices, student housing, and even hotels in the pursuit of growth and high returns. 

Interest Rates Ready to Rise

While the overall market may seem due for an overcorrection after this decade of recovery and growth, real estate cycles are not necessarily fixed or suggesting a pending downturn. However, one notable risk for commercial real estate investors is the likelihood of interest rates to rise by the end of 2020. A report from Savills Research anticipates the Bank of England and European Central Bank to raise base rates to nearly two percent and refinancing rates to one percent, which could give investors pause before making any major moves to avoid nervousness associated with high interest rates.

Political Uncertainty 

The biggest question for commercial real estate investors is “what’s going to happen in the United Kingdom (UK)?” With no clear resolution to the ongoing Brexit saga in sight, investors are left holding their breath as to whether it will result in a deal with the European Union or a brash exit. Regardless of the outcome, an overall decline of UK real estate investment is predicted to occur. Analysis from PwC finds that some European investment managers noted that their institutional investors see the UK as being “fraught with risk.” In a period in which investors are seeking stability, the UK remains a gamble for investment opportunities and, as a result, businesses are relocating from Britain to other major cities in continental Europe. For example, major cities like Frankfurt and Paris are now absorbing what was much of London’s financial edge. 

European Commercial Real Estate in 2020 and Beyond

Commercial real estate investors have a clear rationale for cautious optimism. While the state of Brexit remains pending, the situation nevertheless creates new opportunities for businesses across continental Europe. Prime real estate in major city centers continues to hold steady and strong, and as investors may seek to depart from the UK and find new opportunities for growth, alternative and niche properties offer interesting and lucrative possibilities to fit their demands. However, with the potential for interest rates to rise and for global politics to become more uncertain, investors seeking opportunities are hedging their bets against insecurity and instability.

The Importance of Custom Trade Resources: How WTC Washington, D.C. Welcomes the World

By: Andrew Gelfuso, Director, WTC Washington, D.C.


One of the unique qualities of the WTCA is just how ingrained its Members are in their local business communities. Because of this grassroots orientation, WTCs are often the local go-to resource for trade and investment guidance. But when you are WTC Washington, D.C. the entire nation and the global community are in your backyard. WTCA Meridian’s editorial team asked WTC Washington, D.C. to highlight one of its recently published resources to draw attention to how all Members can take advantage of their fellow WTCs’ expertise.

In today’s interconnected world, it is more important now than ever for businesses to have reliable resources to acquire data, intelligence, and forge key relationships that can advance their international enterprises. While policymakers and citizens often debate the pros and cons of trade, those of us in this field understand how nuanced and complex the global business environment can be, and what tools are needed in order to succeed.

Understanding the culture and business community of a new market can be a daunting and costly venture. Each city is different, with its own particular qualities, but given the number of agencies, embassies, and other various organizations based here, the Washington, D.C. area — along with its neighboring states, Maryland and Virginia — has unique national resources needed to promote foreign direct investment (FDI) and trade. While there is friendly competition amongst these three areas, the region as a whole has distinct attributes and remains a significant draw for business delegations and government officials from around the world. To simplify the world of trade, there are a host of government resources and nonprofit organizations (NGOs) available — one of which is the World Trade Center (WTC) Washington, D.C., situated in the heart of the nation’s capital. 

The international community that thrives in this area benefits greatly from having a WTC that provides business counseling and key contacts, and convenes a global forum, similar to the guidance WTCs in other cities around the world offer their members. This local expertise is incredibly important, and WTC Washington, D.C. is the connection between the diplomatic, policy, and business communities. 

Based on the resources mentioned above, our office created the Capital Trade Guide for those looking to better understand the Washington, D.C. landscape and explore the national trade resources available. The guide features key stakeholders and partners who provide timely and critical information on a national scale, and offers beneficial insights into various industries. As a comprehensive directory to key federal agencies, multilateral development banks, trade associations, business councils, embassies, and digital resources, the guide helps businesses step beyond U.S. borders to expand into the international market.

There are 19 federal agencies listed in the guide including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), and the Foreign Agriculture Service (USDA-FAS); and 11 trade associations including the World Trade Center Association (WTCA), District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce, American Association of Exporters and Importers (AAEI), and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Additionally, the guide features a listing of more than 150 diplomatic missions based and operating in Washington, D.C., along with five multilateral development banks, six business councils, and 11 digital resources.

This guide is not just a tool for Washington, D.C. locals — we encourage our fellow WTCs to share this with their members and clients as a benefit of the WTCA Membership and as a resource to navigate the complex world of global business.

Click here to view and download the full Capital Trade Guide. For any questions, please contact Hosai Rashid at

Deal or No Deal: Brexit on the Horizon


On June 23, 2016, citizens across the United Kingdom (UK) narrowly voted to leave the European Union (EU), the economic and political union involving 28 European countries that allows free trade, and movement of people to live and work in whichever country in the bloc they choose. The UK had been a member since 1973 and if it leaves as planned on October 31, 2019 (at time of publication), it would be the first member state to withdraw from the EU. Brexit — as the referendum has become commonly known as a portmanteau for “British exit” — has since been the hot topic of rigorous political debate and a prime source of economic uncertainty in Europe. 

With deadlines passed, deals deadlocked, and a revolving door of Prime Ministers and Parliament members seeking to bring the chaotic process to an end, the UK currently faces a crucial decision with the EU: to leave the union with — or without — a “deal.” No matter what comes to pass, one thing remains certain: Britain and the Eurozone will never be the same. 

Three Long Years 

Following the 2016 EU referendum, in which 51.9 percent of voters decided for the UK to leave the EU, Prime Minister David Cameron resigned and Teresa May took over, ushering in the formal Brexit process. 

May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which formally kicked off a two-year clock for the UK to officially leave the EU on March 29, 2019. But after a series of difficult negotiations, snap elections, and growing concerns over the Irish border, the two-year Brexit timeline clock became infeasible. As such, May was twice forced to ask EU leaders to extend the deadline for Britain’s “divorce,” moving the current date for departure to October 31, 2019

Prior to the October 31 deadline, UK lawmakers must determine whether or not to negotiate what the country’s relationship with the EU will look like after leaving the union. This remains the biggest stumbling block in Parliament: agreeing on a deal with the EU, which would likely include set agreements over customs, trade, and immigration — or exiting without such a deal in place. 

What if There’s a Deal?

Once a Brexit deal has been approved, a nonbinding political declaration will be in place to define the relationship between the EU and UK moving forward. The deal would cover rights of EU citizens in the UK as well as the rights of UK citizens in the EU, an agreement over the Irish border, and the amount of money the UK owes the EU for its divorce. Proposed Brexit deals, many of which have been rejected by Parliament, could also include wider agreements over issues such as free trade. 

What if There’s No deal? 

Without a deal in place, the UK will leave the EU on October 31 with no agreements about work and trade. This could greatly impact the lives of those living in both the UK and EU, with the possibility of border checks being re-introduced, and transportation and trade coming to a standstill. In worst-case scenarios, the UK risks border delays, hikes of food and fuel prices, medicine shortages, and widespread political unrest. 

Contingency exercises outlined by the British government highlights the major issues posed at the Irish border. Specifically, Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which would remain part of the EU, wish to avoid a hard border that would recall the tumultuous political struggles the island encountered during “The Troubles” for three decades in the late 20th century (1968-1998). But without a deal in place, no resolution between the EU and UK means Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland may be forced to reckon with the return of a hard border. 

What Happens Now? 

In early September, lawmakers voted to block a no-deal Brexit plan to prevent current Prime Minister (at time of publication) Boris Johnson from pulling the country out of the EU without a plan in place. As a result, Johnson is now required to seek a three-month Brexit extension (until January 2020) unless he manages to get a Brexit deal through Parliament by October 19 or unless Parliament has voted to leave the EU without a deal beforehand. 

Johnson called for new elections in an attempt to get as many voters to decide to leave the EU with his version of Brexit (without a deal) or Parliament’s approach to continue with the negotiations process, but was ultimately rejected by Parliament. 

Unsurprisingly, what happens next is anyone’s guess. Whether an agreement is reached or a no-deal Brexit is carried out, the repercussions of the “leave” vote will continue to reverberate for years to come.