Don’t be fooled by the smiles. The next WTO Ministerial Conference is only a year away but the atmosphere is worse than before the previous one
By Peter Ungphakorn and Robert Wolfe
POSTED FEBRUARY 26, 2023 | UPDATED FEBRUARY 26, 2023
Time flies. It was only last June that the World Trade Organization (WTO) emerged from a morale-boosting Ministerial Conference, hailed as a success simply because members could at least agree on what to do next, often in the vaguest possible terms, and not on everything.
They did strike a deal on curbing harmful fisheries subsidies but even that was gutted of its most important element: tackling subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, the top priority of UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 Target 6.
The June success is already a distant memory.
Continue reading “Belief in the multilateral trade system is eroding, and that spells trouble”
Brand new, decades old, or in between? Exclusive or applying to all members? Proper negotiations or just talk? Which is which, and what are the subjects?
By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JANUARY 3, 2022 | UPDATED MAY 26, 2023
As World Trade Organization (WTO) members struggle to reach consensus on numerous issues, many see talks among “the willing” as the way to modernise the organisation and in many cases to update its trade rules. But the approach is controversial.
These talks and resulting decisions among only some WTO members are called “plurilateral” to distinguish them from “multilateral” activities and agreements among the WTO’s whole membership.
Continue reading “Explainer: The 18 WTO plurilaterals and ‘joint-statement initiatives’”
On the day she started her term as new WTO chief, Okonjo-Iweala faced a challenge to her vision
Explainer: The 18 WTO plurilaterals and ‘joint-statement initiatives’
Participants in the present plurilaterals: Technical note
For a taste of the intense debate on this in the WTO General Council,
see this 13-page extract from the minutes (March 2021 meeting)
There are also signs that the “plurilateral” approach can
produce results. See “‘Plurilateral’ WTO services
deal struck after breakthrough text released”
By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED FEBRUARY 22, 2021 | UPDATED JANUARY 10, 2022
It’s tempting to call it a bombshell. But the warning signs have been around for some time. Nevertheless a new paper from India and South Africa signals a tough ride for the new head of the World Trade Organization’s ambitions to drive negotiations forward.
The paper criticises negotiations involving only part of the WTO’s membership. They are called “plurilaterals” and are seen as a way of breaking deadlock when consensus is elusive.
Continue reading “India and South Africa pour cold water on alternative approach to WTO talks”