The failure of the Doha Round has dominated the views about the WTO and its leadership on the grounds that (a) it clings to a set of trade liberalization objectives that have gone past their “sell-by” date after more than a decade of unmet and unrealistic deadlines (b) the leadership of the WTO has relied too much on a successful Doha Round to define the value of the WTO, and (c) the premise of the Doha Round was flawed from the very beginning as a single undertaking dependent on a consensus among a growing number of member-states for a combination of trade liberalization AND development objectives. Our Webinar discussants actually challenged this view by suggesting that the WTO and its leadership had accomplished a great deal in the past decade in spite of the failure of the Doha Round to reach a timely conclusion.
We had noted already the substantial increase in WTO membership (from 76, including the EU, when it was first established in 1994 to 158 as of February 2013); the significance of its dispute settlement regime; the quality of its information services; and the serendipitous and positive impact of its reports on protectionism for the G20 in the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis. We were reminded by our discussants that Director-General Pascal Lamy had also initiated a set of bold outreach initiatives – from the public forums that opened up the WTO to so many non-state actors, to his engagement with the heads of the WHO and WIPO on the issue of public health, innovation and intellectual property, and with the head of the ILO on jobs and employment. We have also reported on the WTO’s work with the OECD on a new methodology involving the concept of “value added” trade and research on non-tariff measures especially in the area of climate change and environmental policies. The general impression is that Mr. Lamy’s tenure has involved a more transparent process of open communication with the outside world and numerous opportunities for NGOs and others from outside the formal governance institutions of the WTO to influence the trade policy debate.
From the CMBD News 25 February 2013