The selection of the new DG of the WTO generated a little bit of news in the past months. Now that things have settled, we have opinions on how the WTO needs to be revived, revitalised and re-energized. The challenges before the new DG are said to be immense and the way forward is said to be riddled with complexity.
One such piece offered a way forward to the new chief to undertake more consultation amongst private businesses across continents to revitalise and reaffirm the relevance of the multilateral institution. Jean-Pierre Lehman in his piece "How the WTO can stay relevant" brought out the various pressures in the context of running the international institution. The point about South-South co-operation caught my attention:
"However, more importantly, there is also a South-South division, which is less obvious but equally hindering. The agriculture policies of India are very different from those of Brazil for example, and even though five key leading emerging nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are classified as the BRICS, I see very little in common within these countries. We have the emerging power and economic strength of Brazil, China and India, but they need to lay aside their differences in order to progress and benefit from their combined assets."
While south-south co-operation is a phrase commonly used to emphasise the importance of developing country camaraderie, in actuality national interest does play a defining role in way country's implement trade policy. While negotiations and international economic law and policy making is more amenable to a South-South co-operation paradigm, dispute settlement cases indicate that this cohesion is easily disproved. May be it is a mix of both worlds.