The Global Economic Governance (GEG) Africa programme is a policy research and stakeholder engagement programme to strengthen the influence of pro-poor African coalitions at global economic governance fora.

WTO Blog (21)

Wednesday, 23 September 2015 17:12

WTO Project: Restoring Multilateral Trade Co-operation

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A new project, coordinated by SAIIA, is exploring how multilateral trade negotiations can be revitalised to overcome both existing and emerging challenges.
Tuesday, 21 October 2014 11:48

The Unfair Nature of the World Trade Organisation

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Thirteen years ago the World Trade Organization (WTO) essentially promised to put developing states needs at the forefront of international trade negotiation agenda. The start of the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations, in November 2001, saw the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration that was a positive response to the anti-globalisation riots and challenges seen at the ends of the 1990s. The five-day protests called the 'Battle of Seattle', which resulted in the opening ceremonies and the initial session of the WTO being effectively shut down, was a clear example of the developing states people’s and developed state activists’ belief…
Go to any conference in the world and say ‘Doha Development Agenda’, and the room is likely to empty. But not in China. Recently I was impressed with the degree of interest amongst China’s trade policy elite in the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the global trading system of which it is a part.
Three years ago this author reflected on how the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ought to adapt and evolve in order to stay relevant. The focus was on the changes the multilateral trading system has faced over the years from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to the WTO we know today. In advance of the all-important 9th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Bali, Indonesia from 3 to 6 December 2013, much of that thinking remains relevant and the issues raised are still at the core of the existential crisis that the WTO finds itself in.
The World Economic Forum’s global trade and FDI council report promoting a multilateral investment treaty continues to receive favourable reviews. Klaus Schwab, founding CEO of the WEF, sent us this message:
Wednesday, 12 June 2013 10:53

Time to bridge the gap in FDI regulation

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It used to be that suggesting World Trade Organization (WTO) members should negotiate a multilateral agreement on investment would attract incredulous stares. After all, the OECD tried, and failed spectacularly, in the late 1990s. That attempt was widely seen in the developing world as a plot by rich countries to open their markets to multinational corporations, and its failure as successful resistance to western designs. Less well-known is that the multilateral agreement on investment failed primarily because OECD countries could not agree on meaningful provisions.
Thursday, 23 May 2013 15:04

BRICS star rises with new WTO boss

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Last week’s election of Roberto Azevêdo, a Brazilian diplomat, to head the World Trade Organisation, has been widely interpreted as an event illustrative of the changing global balance of power. His election represents the first time someone from a BRICS country – and only the second time someone from the Global South – is installed in this powerful position.
The WTO is looking for a new Director-General. The process, which is remarkably open and public, has nine candidates. This column introduces a new VoxEU eBook in which seven of the candidates lay out their views on the challenges confronting the WTO and how to address them. Taken together, they provide a uniquely comprehensive view of the world’s trade governance problems. It will be an important reference long after the selection process ends.
There is a surge of interest in the implications of global value chains. These encompass a wholesale reconceptualisation of trade statistics, a renewed focus on the importance of services in economic development, and the possibilities for leveraging GVCs to drive rapid and sustainable growth in income and employment, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.The global value chain ‘narrative’ is contested. There is concern that it is being proffered to support the case for developed countries to bypass the WTO’s Doha Round, and that it is simply the latest effort to impose an ill-advised liberalisation agenda on developing countries.We outline a case for…
Late last month, World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy met with Trade Ministers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in order to discuss ways to ensure substantial results at the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Bali, Indonesia in December this year. The Ministers agreed that the Bali agenda should focus on the issues of trade facilitation, agriculture and certain topics of special interest to least developed countries (LDCs).  An Agreement on Trade Facilitation is considered by Lamy and others to represent ‘low hanging fruit’ due to the relatively uncontroversial nature of the issue and…
(Click here to download this article in PDF format from The Global Economic Governance Programme at University College.) The race to determine who will take the mantle of the WTO from current Director-General Pascal Lamy - who steps down in August this year - is now well underway. The nine candidates vying for the job are set to address the organization's Membership this week at a three-day meeting of the WTO General Council. The choice of Director-General - the first new one since 2005 - is crucial because movement is urgently needed on many fronts: on the negotiating side, the Doha Round is…
The nomination process for World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General (DG) candidates ended on the 31st of December 2012. Pascal Lamy’s term ends on the 31st of August 2013 and will not be renewed. The nomination process resulted in nine candidates demonstrating an interest in the most senior position in the World Trade Organization.The list of nominees is made up of a diverse pool of lawyers, economists and persons with different professional inclinations. Some of the notable features of the nominees are that four have PhDs, while another four have solid Geneva experience in different capacities, either at the WTO…
DAVOS is important for at least three reasons: it plays a critical role in setting an agenda for global discussions throughout the year; provides networking opportunities of the highest order; and offers countries opportunities to brand themselves with an elite, powerful investor community. It is thus appropriate that South Africa is properly represented. But what can we expect?The global agenda revolves around the major powers’ strategic postures. US politicians continue to edge away from their fiscal cliff while the economy grows, if anaemically. President Barack Obama is consolidating his "diplomacy first, shoot later" foreign policy thrust, whilst extricating the US…
Tuesday, 15 January 2013 11:17

UNCTAD’s Big Opportunity

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With deep problems continuing to plague the world economy, the rise of protectionism and paralysis in the WTO negotiating machinery, the global trading system needs a catalyst.After four years of depression in the developed world, there are fragile signs of recovery but the future remains very uncertain. Major emerging market economies continue to grow but face the question of whether they can cross the threshold to the next level of development. Tit for tat protectionism bedevils efforts to expand international trade and get the world economy moving forward. The WTO appears to be mired in a legalistic bog, making trade…
Extract from a speech by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator "It is not difficult to draw up an inventory of global institutions and mechanisms which are struggling to reach decisions": The veto power in the UN Security Council can be a block to decisive action.The annual meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have often struggled to reach agreement.The UN Commission on the Status of Women failed to produce an agreed outcome this year.The Commission on Sustainable Development ended its nineteenth session, in May 2011, unable to agree on policy decisions on…
During the World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum held in Geneva recently, the corridors and coffee shops were abuzz with speculation about the race for the position of Director General.  Pascal Lamy will end his second term in August 2013.  The official process to find a replacement will begin with nominations of candidates by member countries of the WTO in December 2012. Informal jockeying for position has already begun. 
With our colleague Dan Drezner about to descend on the mighty University of Toronto, Dan was kind enough to alert me to a a recent Council on Foreign Relations Working Paper he’d just completed.  Entitled, “The Irony of Global Economic Governance: The System Worked” Dan, so he suggested to me, would be using this paper as the basis of his remarks here in Toronto.On title alone I commented to him that he’d finally become an “advocate for global governance”. While Dan was unwilling to sign onto my admittedly rather exuberant characterization, he was willing to concede that he was more…
Monday, 01 October 2012 12:09

Competitiveness, Protectionism, and the WTO

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John Maynard Keynes’s ghost casts a shadow over the current financial crisis. His prescriptions for the Great Depression consisted essentially of sustained fiscal stimulus and protection from imports in order to retain that stimulus within the domestic market. They were badly suited to the economic crisis of the 1970s, which was characterised by inflation and stagnation with the former aggravated by Keynesian demand stimulus.That crisis generated two connected intellectual responses: Milton Friedman’s monetarist revolution; and Mancur Olson’s theory of special interest groups.
The World Trade Organization is in a state of flux. This stems largely from the Doha Round impasse and the failure of the main protagonists to reach agreement.However, it is also the effect of a changing global political economy. With the rise of the emerging economies, decisions reached before at the World Trade Organization are not so easy to make anymore.
How can World Trade Organisations rules be advanced in the absence of a conclusion of the Doha round? Other approaches need to be explored, including plurilateral or small group negotiations under the auspices of the WTO.
The 8th Ministerial conference (MC8) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is now done and dusted. Once again the world held its breath hoping that the trade ministers would give a more concrete indication on what is to happen with the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). A variety of issues were discussed, such as a different negotiating approach and the need to deliver on the Doha mandate, but no decisions were made. Even the much anticipated least developed countries (LDC) package failed to materialise, showing just how difficult it is to agree on issues even where countries are agreed in principle.…