Bernard Hoekman, Xinquan Tu, 12 July 2021

Rising geopolitical and geoeconomic tensions among major trade powers are undermining the rules-based multilateral trade order. A new VoxEU eBook brings together teams of mostly Chinese and European experts who focus on key challenges confronting the multilateral trading system. Pursuit of issue-specific negotiations on an open plurilateral basis offers prospects for revitalizing the WTO but does not remove the need for balance in the choice of issues put forward for negotiation and for systemic WTO reform. Joint leadership by China and the EU to establish a balanced work programme that spans both old and new issues of interest to all WTO members is a necessary condition to reboot the rules-based trade order.

Alessandro Antimiani, Lucian Cernat, 24 June 2021

Many believe that the global trading system could offer little more to least developed countries beyond the various unilateral preferential schemes currently in place. This column argues that there is room for new multilateral initiatives to strengthen the participation of these countries in global value chains. It advocates for a new ‘GVCs for LDCs’ global preferential scheme based on least developed countries’ value added, thereby covering exports by these countries along the entire supply chain. Estimates suggest that such a scheme would increase global trade, improve least developed countries’ value added, and promote further value chain integration between these and other developing countries.

Ana Fernandes, Nadia Rocha, Michele Ruta, 23 June 2021

While multilateral trade negotiations have stagnated and tensions between major players have surged, bilateral and regional agreements seem to have run away with the trade agenda. There are over 300 agreements today, up from 50 in 1990. Most importantly, many of these agreements have extended their reach well beyond tariffs, aiming to achieve integration beyond trade, or ‘deep’ integration. This column introduces a new eBook from CEPR and the World Bank that focuses on the determinants of deep trade agreements, how they affect trade and non-trade outcomes, and how they might shape trade relations in a post-COVID-19 world.

Petros C. Mavroidis, André Sapir, 30 April 2021

The ability of the WTO to shape the way China conducts its trade policy has been severely limited, and most attempts to leverage multilateral pressure have so far failed. This third in a series of three columns explores how the relationship could be reformed and improved going forward. The authors highlight the need for clearer guidelines on state-owned enterprises, as well as new rules surrounding the transfer of technology between signatories.

Petros C. Mavroidis, André Sapir, 29 April 2021

Having joined the WTO, many Western countries expected China to soon liberalise and become an open market economy. This second in a series of three columns describes how China has been able to shrug off pressures to change its economic structure and trading strategy, particularly regarding how its state-owned enterprises operate within the multilateral system.

Petros C. Mavroidis, André Sapir, 28 April 2021

China’s ascension to the WTO followed years of negotiations with the incumbent members and was hailed at the time as a victory for the liberal paradigm – part of the ‘end of history’. But today frictions remain. This first in a series of three columns presents the build-up to China joining the multilateral trade agreement, arguing that expectations for its subsequent behaviour were misguided from the off.

Simon Evenett, Richard Baldwin, 10 February 2021

Following the appointment of its new Director-General, the World Trade Organization has the best opportunity in years to revive its fortunes. This column, written as an open letter to the incoming Director-General of the WTO, argues why and offers ideas on how.

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COVID-19 has sparked a discussion about the provision of essential goods as some governments introduced export restrictions to secure supplies. Such restrictions, among other factors, have driven increasing interest in reshoring and the reorganisation of supply chains. There is thus a risk in the aftermath of the pandemic for the global economy to move away from economically-minded open trade policies towards policies driven by strategic political considerations.

International cooperation can help strengthen global value chains (GVCs) by reducing the threat of export restrictions, enhancing monitoring efforts, and promoting digital trade, e-commerce and the movement of essential personnel. At the same time, more flexibilities to enable countries to guarantee the provision of essential goods could be considered. With the acceleration of teleworking and digitalization, the expansion of a global regulating framework to cover such matters is becoming more urgent.

Against this background, the webinar's panellists will discuss the following questions and identify relevant best practices:

1. How has international cooperation helped address value chain disruptions in the current crisis? How can the system be improved?

2. Is more international cooperation needed in the production of essential goods to avoid shortages in the future? What can firms, governments and international organizations do?

3. How can the multilateral trading system help ensure the availability of essential goods in developing countries and least developing countries (LDCs)? Does this require (temporary) changes in rules?

The event will be moderated by:

Robert Koopman, Chief Economist and Director, Economic Research and Statistics Division, WTO

The panel will comprise of:

Sunanta Kangvalkulkij, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the WTO

Stéphanie Leupold, Head of Trade Strategy Unit, DG Trade, European Commission

Willy Alfaro, Director, Trade Policy Review Division, WTO

Boubaker Ben-Belhassen, Director, Trade and Markets Division, FAO

Anabel González, Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics

Knut Alicke, Partner, McKinsey

To register please follow this link:
https://worldtradeorganization.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_R1Ygdc63QPqlo...

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Simon Evenett, Richard Baldwin, 10 November 2020

While the trade system as a whole has proved more resilient than many feared during the Covid-19 pandemic, the crisis has placed new stresses on multilateral cooperation. This has come at a time when the standing of the WTO has fallen in some of its largest members and its rules have been ignored by many. This column argues that with the election of a new US government and the concurrent selection of a new WTO Director-General, there is new hope for a revitalisation of multilateral cooperation on trade. A new eBook presents analyses and ideas of how this could be done.

Matteo Fiorini, Bernard Hoekman, Petros C. Mavroidis, Douglas Nelson, Robert Wolfe, 09 July 2020

The WTO membership faces many challenges, ranging from substantive rulemaking on policies generating trade conflicts to revitalising the multilateral dispute settlement system. This column reports on the results of a recent survey of the trade community regarding the priorities confronting the next WTO Director-General. There is a substantial degree of commonality in rank orderings of substantive issues for negotiation, institutional reform, and daily operations of the WTO, but underlying this are significant differences in rankings of issues and options across groups of respondents. Resolving the dispute settlement crisis is a clear priority for most respondents, especially government officials. 

Matteo Fiorini, Bernard Hoekman, Petros C. Mavroidis, Douglas Nelson, Robert Wolfe, 08 July 2020

The WTO is looking for a new Director-General. This column reports on selected results of a recent survey designed to help identify what the trade community thinks is needed. The results suggest strong support for someone with managerial and political experience, and a professional network that spans international organisations, major capitals, and international business. African respondents assign the highest priority to regional diversity. Overall, there is a distinct contrast between the preferred profile and that of the incumbent.

Eddy Bekkers, Alexander Keck, Robert Koopman, Coleman Nee, 24 April 2020

Among its many regrettable effects, Covid-19 will also have a strong impact on international trade. Forecasting potential trade effects is important for policymaking. This column develops a range of scenarios in a dynamic CGE model to simulate possible trajectories for GDP. It then generates short-term forecasts of trade for various regions and the world using time-series analysis. The outlook for 2020 is bleak with trade possibly declining by between 13% and 32%. Some recovery is expected in 2021.

Mario Larch, José-Antonio Monteiro, Roberta Piermartini, Yoto Yotov, 20 November 2019

Though economic theory clearly makes the case for WTO trade rules, the empirical evidence of their effect is mixed. This column argues that previous studies may have underestimated the positive role of GATT/WTO membership by not taking into account the non-discriminatory nature of their agreements. Besides market access, the agreements provide greater transparency and predictability that benefit WTO members and non-members alike. Taking these effects into account suggests that, on average, GATT/WTO membership has increased trade between Members by 171% and trade between member and non-member countries by about 88%. 

Matteo Fiorini, Bernard Hoekman, Petros C. Mavroidis, Maarja Saluste, Robert Wolfe, 20 November 2019

The WTO dispute settlement system is in crisis, endangering the future of the organisation. The proximate reason for alarm is the dwindling number of Appellate Body members, the result of the US blocking new appointments as the terms of sitting members expire. The crisis usually is presented as the US against the world. This column reports on the results of a recent survey of WTO Members’ perceptions of the Appellate Body and the role it plays (or should play). Responses reveal strong support for the basic design of the dispute settlement system, but also that the US is not alone in perceiving that the Body has gone beyond its mandate.

Sait Akman, Shiro Armstrong, Carlos Primo Braga, Uri Dadush, Anabel González, Fukunari Kimura, Junji Nakagawa, Peter Rashish, Akihiko Tamura, 04 September 2019

Bernard Hoekman, Petros C. Mavroidis, 26 August 2019

In December 2019, the WTO Appellate Body will cease to operate unless the US stops blocking new appointments. This column argues that the Appellate Body should stick to the mandate that was agreed in 1995 and not overstep it, as requested by the US. At the same time, the WTO adjudication process should be reformed by increasing the use of economics in panel reports, by improving the quality of panellists and Appellate Body members, by reducing the politicisation of appointments, and by changing the modus operandi of dispute settlement. 

Chad Bown, 22 July 2019

Alvaro Espitia, Aaditya Mattoo, Mondher Mimouni, Xavier Pichot, Nadia Rocha, 10 July 2019

Preferential trade agreements cover more than half of world trade. This column argues that while the 280 preferential trade agreements in existence have substantially widened the scope of free trade and reduced average applied tariffs, they have struggled against traditional bastions of protection in poorer countries and have not been able to eliminate the high levels of protection for a handful of sensitive products. While preference margins offered to partners in such agreements seem large, their significance shrinks when competition from both preferential and non-preferential sources is considered.

Jason Garred, 09 July 2019

Like other countries participating in the multilateral trading system, China agreed to limit the use of import tariffs when it joined the WTO. As this column shows, however, it continued to employ other instruments of trade policy, including a new set of restrictions on exports which partly restored the asymmetric treatment of Chinese industries embodied in its pre-WTO import tariffs. Today's tariff wars appear to be just the latest example of an ongoing battle whose skirmishes have taken many forms.

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