Monday, January 21, 2013

Keeping the WTO busy

A not so recent but interesting piece by Patrick A Messerlin on why the Doha round is not moving forward and what the WTO should do in the meantime.

Titled "Keeping the WTO busy while the Doha round is stuck" it argues that while efforts to move on the Doha agenda must go on, the WTO can be at the forefront as a "think-tank" on negotiating techniques and as a key host for thinking on multilateral governance.
"Despite all its shortcomings, the WTO legal framework is by far the most advanced piece of multilateral governance. The world trade regime is not the only multilateral regime in danger. The whole idea of ‘global governance’ is in deep troubles, and the trade regime is only one casualty among others. Very little progress has been achieved in climate change issues, and this is not due to doubts on climate change in the officialdom. And there is very little progress on water (farm production) despite droughts, and on oceans (fisheries) despite risks of depletion of some species. 
Trade negotiators should thus take the initiative to invite members of the climate, water, ocean communities to discuss jointly these common issues. The current centrality of the WTO forum makes it a natural place to initiate discussions on what means a “multilateral governance” beyond the narrow trade issues, when large countries are paralysed by domestic politics and when emerging countries are not ready to pay for leadership. 
Indeed, there is a demand from the ‘climate community’, which realises that a major source of its failures comes from its too weak institutional framework. There is a demand from the “ocean communities” which followed the Doha Round negotiations on fisheries subsidies. The demand from the ‘water community’ is less audible simply because, at this stage, the worldwide aspect of what is often seen as a local public good problem (but which is a worldwide public good problem because of trade in agriculture) is hard to see. 
The WTO is the only institution that has the capacity (from logistics to substance) to develop a series of worldwide, totally open-minded conferences on all these related themes, hence to reveal the deep similarities and the converging interests among all these world communities struggling for a functioning multilateral governance. It is puzzling that such initiatives have not yet become a routine component of the WTO work programme."
Over-optimistic, one would say? 

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