There is no denying the fact that it is this system that underlined peace, security, stability and prosperity in the post-war world, said Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International, a global public policy think- and action-tank on trade, regulations and governance.
He was speaking at the virtual launch of a Discussion Paper on a “World without the the WTO” prepared by CUTS on the basis of a series of webinars organised across the world during April to September 2020. The paper was supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung’s Geneva office.
Joining him in the conversation, Pascal Lamy, former Director General, World Trade Organisation argued that there is no alternative to the WTO going forward, in organising trading relations between nations in a fair and just manner.
At the same time, there is a need to acknowledge that there are issues with the present multilateral trading system which can be explored through the lens of software issues and hardware issues.
While the former represents the conceptual framework of rules for trading, the latter implies the actual way the WTO works, which requires proper diagnosis if reform agenda of WTO is to be pursued.
In response to concerns raised over the probability of a Biden administration in the USA impacting the prospects of a reformed WTO, he highlighted that geo-political developments have a significant bearing on the way forward for multilateralism, particularly given the detrimental role that the Trump administration played.
Other issues that were discussed included the need for enhancing transparency in the proceedings and decision-making processes of the WTO in which technology can be a great enabler.
Additionally, curbing information asymmetry and enabling member nations to have equal access to critical information metrics were some of the points that were highlighted by eminent participants.
Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International stressed on the need for strengthening the global discourse around a fair and just multilateral system of trading.
To this effect, he proposed setting up of a Group of Eminent Persons comprising former Director Generals of WTO to draw up a conceptual framework for WTO reform and another Group of Eminent Political leaders.