Some who attended blamed the ‘vacuum’ caused by a delay in appointing a new chair, and ambassadors reading from prepared statements
By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED OCTOBER 26, 2022 | UPDATED OCTOBER 26, 2022
Monday’s (October 24) “retreat” on agriculture at the World Trade Organization (WTO) was supposed to produce new ideas to help move the stalled farm trade talks forward, but some accounts suggest it was stronger on alerting delegates to new challenges than on developing new negotiating approaches.
This seems to contrast with the brainstorming approach seen in a similar event a fortnight earlier on the fisheries subsidies negotiations (October 10, 2022).
Part of the problem may be that a new chair still has not been appointed for the talks — a problem shared with fisheries subsidies, but apparently not affecting that earlier retreat.
Continue reading “WTO agriculture retreat said strong on context but weak on give-and-take”
It might seem churlish to draw attention to what was lacking, but the achievements that were rightly hailed are not the end of the story.
The successful WTO Conference saw one big failure: agriculture | Have we just seen the funeral of the WTO ‘single undertaking’? | Our scorecards
By Peter Ungphakorn and Robert Wolfe
POSTED JUNE 30, 2022 | UPDATED JUNE 30, 2022
As a beautiful sun rose over the World Trade Organization’s lakeside headquarters in Geneva on June 17, 2022, exhausted delegates sealed a package of decisions and declarations that would give the beleaguered WTO new direction for the next couple of years.
Much has already been written about the achievement of the 12–17 June WTO Ministerial Conference, after it was extended by almost two days of sometimes chaotic round-the-clock bargaining.
Most of the analysis focuses on what was achieved, often with a sense of relief that the WTO was back on track, mixed with a warning that much still needs to be done.
Perhaps the biggest success was that a package was agreed by ministers, including an Outcome Document — which the previous ministerial conference failed to do.
Often missing is recognition of how hard it was to achieve this limited outcome.
Continue reading “WTO members achieve breakthrough, but the tough part is what happens next”
The WTO director-general says she discouraged negotiators from trading give-and-take across issues
WTO members achieve breakthrough, but the tough part is what happens next | The successful WTO Conference saw one big failure: agriculture | Our scorecards
By Robert Wolfe
POSTED JUNE 21, 2022 | UPDATED JUNE 21, 2022
Observers of multiple World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conferences felt gloomy early during the June 12–17 meeting, when Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned against mingling the issues.
She was reported to have urged ministers to make trade-offs within the same issue rather than across the package of issues.
In an interview with the Financial Times’ Alan Beattie (paywalled) she confirmed her approach.
“Sometimes, all this leveraging and cross connections between outcomes I think in the past has led to the failure to achieve anything, because then everything just doesn’t work and collapses. I was really determined from the get-go that wasn’t going to happen and I was trying to discourage members from linking one thing to another,” she said.
I was trying to discourage members from linking one thing to another
— Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,
Those of us who analyse the WTO have a mental model of how members could reach agreement. When the process seems too slow, or it fails, analysts think: if the Secretariat or members could do it differently, then the obstacles could be overcome. This reasoning is counterfactual, meaning something that has not happened but might happen under different conditions.
Continue reading “Have we just seen the funeral of the WTO ‘single undertaking’?”
There were a number of concrete results, which was a relief for many, but how significant are the outcomes?
By Robert Wolfe and Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE 19, 2022 | UPDATED JUNE 19, 2022
In our curtain-raiser before the June 12–17 World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference — “Touch and go at the WTO. Is the director-general’s optimism justified?” — we suggested a set of score cards for assessing the result. Based on the actual outcome, we’ve adjusted the scorecards slightly and filled them in.
The scorecards are in this note. It includes an invitation to comment
Updates: none so far
Delegates on the terrace at the WTO headquarters, Geneva, night of June 15, 2022 | WTO
The meaning of “success” is not the same for the Ministerial Conference’s organisers as it is for outsiders
By Peter Ungphakorn and Robert Wolfe
POSTED JUNE 9, 2022 | UPDATED JUNE 12, 2022
How many times can a curtain go up and down? This is our second curtain-raiser for the World Trade Organization’s 12th Ministerial Conference, now rescheduled for June 12–15, 2022.
As we wrote when the meeting was postponed in late 2021, the WTO risks disappearing into a chasm of petty procedural wrangling over what to talk about, and how to move forward.
After delays in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, and more recently the threat to multilateralism posed by Russia, the fact of it happening at all will be taken as a success. But have WTO members been able to move closer to significant agreement on anything?
This time our curtain-raiser proposes some benchmarks for assessment. There’s even a scorecard at the end for anyone following along at home.
Continue reading “Touch and go at the WTO. Is the director-general’s optimism justified?”
The Ukraine war threatens food security but over-reaction is not the answer, delegates hear
By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED APRIL 26, 2022 | UPDATED APRIL 26, 2022
Countries should avoid reacting hastily to the food security challenge posed by the war in Ukraine and avoid worsening the crisis, experts warned in a World Trade Organization (WTO) seminar today (April 26, 2022).
Presenting a grim picture for many countries, several speakers urged governments to keep trade flowing, not to take short term measures that could increase volatility and not to turn inward.
That was among several messages heard in the seminar, with a number of implications for WTO members and their efforts to modernise the rules of international agricultural trade.
Below are five takeaways from the seminar. The morning sessions were on the record. Some of the speakers are identified here. The afternoon sessions were under the Chatham House Rule and speakers are not identified.
Continue reading “Five takeaways from the WTO seminar on food security”