The internet promotes educational, technological, and scientific progress, but governments sometimes choose to control the flow of information for national security reasons, or to protect privacy or intellectual property. This column highlights the use of trade rules to regulate the flow of information, and describes how the EU, the US, and their negotiating partners have been unable to find common ground on these issues. Trade agreements have yet to set information free, and may in fact be making it less free.
Susan Ariel Aaronson, 14 July 2014
Jayant Menon, 09 June 2014
With the rise of mega-regional trade agreements, the world trade system resembles a jigsaw puzzle. This column discusses the difficulties involved in consolidating free trade agreements at the regional level, and argues that piecing together the blocs around the world will be even more challenging. A potential way forward is to return to the most widely used modality of trade liberalisation – unilateral actions – but this time involving the multilateralisation of preferences rather than unreciprocated reductions in tariff rates.
Anabel González, 29 May 2014
Mega-regional negotiations will underwrite global governance on 21st-century trade issues and facilitate the proliferation of global and regional value chains. This column writes that Latin American countries would gain from a strengthened and effective WTO to help mitigate the friction and fragmentation that may result from the mega-regionals.
Bernard Hoekman, 19 May 2014
The World Trade Organisation is one of the most successful instances of multilateral cooperation post-WWII. Yet WTO negotiators have yet found a way to break the recent deadlock on key elements such as the market access and rule-making dimensions on the agenda since 2001. This column introduces a new CEPR book that suggests the adoption of a ‘supply chain framework’ that could help to mobilise greater support for concluding the Doha Round and provide a basis to use the WTO as a forum for learning from regional initiatives.
Diego Bonomo, 01 March 2014
When a dispute in the WTO does not reach any resolution, the offended member country can request the right to retaliate against the offender. This column reviews the profile of most common retaliation-requesting members. There is a preference among certain countries to either pursue retaliation, or resist compliance. The magnitude of requests and the means of retaliation are also discussed. Overall, requesting retaliation is an important tool of analysis, as it often reveals a country’s goals in the WTO disputes.
Gary Horlick, 31 January 2014
World-leading trade lawyer, Gary Horlick, talks to Viv Davies about the 2013 WTO Bali ministerial conference and the post-Bali agenda. Horlick discusses food security, agriculture and whether mega regional trade agreements pose a threat to the future of the WTO. They also discuss the potential benefits of the post-Bali agenda for developing countries and the ‘trade transforming’ effect of SMEs and the internet. The interview was recorded in January 2014.
Alejandro Jara, 25 January 2014
Alejandro Jara talks to Viv Davies about the 2013 WTO Bali ministerial conference and the recent Vox report, ‘Building on Bali’, co-edited with Simon Evenett. Jara presents his views on the post-Bali agenda, mega regional trade agreements and trade protectionism. They also discuss the extent to which the ‘global value chain revolution’ has changed the nature and focus of international trade and trade agreements. Jara concludes by presenting policy recommendations for the way forward. The interview was recorded in January 2014.
Richard Baldwin, 20 January 2014
The global value chain revolution has changed trade and trade agreements. Trade now matters for making goods as well as selling them. Trade governance has shifted away from the WTO towards megaregional agreements. This column argues that 21st-century regionalism is not fundamentally about discrimination, and that its benefits and costs are best thought of as network externalities and harmonisation costs respectively. More research is needed to determine how the megaregional trade agreements across the Pacific and Atlantic will fit with the WTO.
Pascal Lamy, 18 December 2013
The emergence of intra-firm trade as the primary component of international trade reflects a global interdependence in the production process. In this column the former Director-General of the WTO argues that this necessitates a re-examination of how we think about – and how we measure – trade between nations. Interdependence allows different sectors to add value, and complicates the implementation of trade barriers. Only with a modern perspective can effective trade policy be conducted.
Simon Evenett, Alejandro Jara, 18 December 2013
The recent Bali Ministerial Conference was successful enough to ensure that the WTO lives to fight another day. This column introduces a new VoxEU eBook exploring how the WTO can make the most of this opportunity to restore its central place in world trade governance.
Richard Baldwin, 12 December 2013
The WTO signed a mini-package of trade initiatives in Bali last week. This column argues that the ‘Bali package’ is welcome but not enough. Without some new initiative or direction, the WTO looks set to drift for the next few years. The WTO cannot move ahead until the trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic ‘mega-regionals’ are done or dead. In the meantime, the WTO should promote research and discussion on how 21st-century trade issues could be brought into the WTO when the time is ripe.
Bernard Hoekman, Jesper Jensen, David Tarr, 29 November 2013
Two regional trade agreements are centre of attention in Ukraine: the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU – that for the time being Ukraine has rejected – and the Eurasian Customs Union with Russia, that Ukraine has been invited (or pressured) to join. Rather than choosing between the two, Ukraine should focus on reducing policy frictions that negatively affect trade through processes that mobilise firms and industries on both sides of the border. The recent proposal by Ukraine to establish a joint commission among Ukraine, Russia and the EU to promote trade could be a step in this direction.
Kyle Handley, Nuno Limão, 23 November 2013
The impact of policy uncertainty on economic activity is potentially important, but controversial because it is hard to identify and quantify. Recent research provides a framework to identify the impacts of policy uncertainty on firm decisions, and finds it has strong effects in the context of international trade. China’s WTO accession secured its most-favoured nation status in the US, and the evidence shows this reduction in uncertainty can explain a significant fraction of its export boom to the US.
Matthias Helble, Ganeshan Wignaraja, 13 November 2013
Intensifying negotiations leading to the December WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali have renewed optimism for concluding the beleaguered Doha Round and boosting Asia’s trade. Agreement in Bali on tariff-quota administration, trade facilitation, and food security would improve the prospects for a Doha deal and WTO credibility. Failure at Bali, however, would spur the rise of mega-regional trade agreements – to the detriment of countries outside these agreements.
Elías Baracat, Michael Finger, Julio Nogués, Raúl Thorne, 28 October 2013
Trade reforms must be durable if countries are to reap the benefits of international specialisation and trade. Whereas Peru has sustained the reforms it carried out in the 1990s, Argentina has introduced multiple trade restrictions in recent years. This column argues that Peru’s success is due to two factors. First, Peruvian trade reform was part of a broader reform effort. Second, by highlighting the success of Asian countries and negotiating bilateral agreements, Peru’s political leaders fostered a positive vision of Peru’s role in the world economy.
Hector Torres, 21 September 2013
'Special and differential treatment' was justified on the basis that developing countries lacked the fiscal resources to smooth the transition to free trade. However, despite improved fiscal circumstances, exceptions to WTO rules remain in place. Establishing an independent watchdog for the WTO could help it to address these issues.
Beata Javorcik, Gaia Narciso, 05 September 2013
WTO membership does not come cheap in a political sense. So what is the point? This column addresses the idea that institutional reforms in the joining nations are an important element of the gains. It focuses on one reform – changes in customs procedures that limit discretion. This shuts down one channel for tariff evasion, but the column shows that greater evasion occurs through alternative channels.
Michitaka Nakatomi, 15 August 2013
As the Doha Round continues to stagnate, mega FTAs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership will likely play the leading role in trade rulemaking for some time to come, creating a 'spaghetti bowl' of trade rules. This column argues that we should multilateralise the results of mega FTAs on an issue-by-issue basis, starting with an International Supply Chain Agreement.
Pascal Lamy, 29 July 2013
After heading the WTO for eight years, Pascal Lamy offers his farewell remarks. This column reproduces them in full. Despite global turmoil including the Great Trade Collapse and an historic shift of economic power towards emerging markets, the WTO is larger and stronger. Regional trade arrangements can contribute trade opening but they are not sufficient. There is no escape from achieving positive results in the Doha Round, but this requires adjusting the agenda to today's realities by adding new elements.
Gary Hufbauer, Jeffrey Schott , Cathleen Cimino, 07 July 2013
In the wake of the Great Recession, world trade has faltered. Responsible officials turned a blind eye to fresh liberalisation and condoned a quiet resurgence of protectionist measures. This column argues that the global economy needs strong medicine to rebound, and that successful WTO trade talks are part of the elixir.