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The future of the WTO

An interesting paper on the WTO by Uri Dadush of the Carnegie Endowment. His main conclusions:

  • The WTO must adopt a more flexible approach to trade negotiations, tailored to the needs of individual countries and groups. The institution should move beyond multilateral, all-or-nothing negotiations that are bearing little fruit and find ways to leverage opportunities where liberalization is taking place.
  • Though critical for the WTO's credibility and to capitalize on eight years of negotiations, a conclusion of the diluted Doha round will not negate the need for reform. Nor should discussion of reform wait until after the Doha round has been completed, it might actually encourage progress.
  • A formal discussion about reform should get underway during the WTO's ministerial meeting in Geneva in November.
  • The WTO is nowhere to be found in several areas of crucial concern, including food security, international financial regulation in the wake of the global financial crisis, and climate change.

Gary Hufbauer, Steve Charnovitz, and Arvind Subramanian joined Dadush to discuss the paper on Tuesday. There was broad agreement with the recommendations for the institution, but not so much on whether the Doha round was capable of being revived, or even worth reviving. (There should be a transcript here soon.)

Comments on the new US tariffs on tyres imported from China mostly agreed with the line taken in this FT editorial: the Obama administration's safeguard action was probably legal, and unlikely to start a trade war; but nonetheless wrong-headed, ill-timed (with the G20 summit coming up), and badly presented. Further comment from Subramanian at the Peterson Institute and Simon Lester at the International Economic Law and Policy blog.

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