A World Trade Organization for the 21st Century

A World Trade Organization for the 21st Century

The Asian Perspective

ADBI series on Asian Economic Integration and Cooperation

Edited by Richard Baldwin, Masahiro Kawai and Ganeshan Wignaraja

The global financial crisis exposed great shortcomings in the global economic architecture, generating extensive international debate about possible remedies for these deficiencies. The postwar global architecture was guided by major developed economies, centered around the IMF, the GATT, and the World Bank. Today, the balance of economic power is shifting toward emerging economies. Global governance and economic policy must reflect this shift. With contributions from prominent Asian and international trade experts, this book critically examines key changes occurring in the world trading system and explores policy implications for Asia.

Chapter 12: Plurilateral agreements: a viable alternative to the World Trade Organization?

Michitaka Nakatomi

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian economics, economics and finance, asian economics, international economics


This chapter deals with issue-based ‘plurilateral’ agreements, presents an approach to trade liberalization and rulemaking in specific areas, and analyzes their necessity and contribution to the global trade system. A recent achievement of this plurilateral approach is the conclusion of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), for which Japan has been an advocate and took the initiative in the negotiation. The signing ceremony was held in October 2011 in Tokyo, and Japan ratified the agreement in September 2012. Looking back at the history of the WTO, major accords reached under the multilateral framework – such as the Information Technology Agreement, the Financial Services Agreement, and the Basic Telecommunications Services Agreement – were actually based on issue-based plurilateral agreements. This chapter analyzes issue-based plurilateral agreements as an additional framework complementary to the WTO and free trade agreements, assessing their roles in rulemaking and liberalization in the area of international trade, with the aim of exploring the future prospects and possibilities of the plurilateral approach. It also illustrates that developing countries can join and utilize such agreements to improve their positions in the global trade regime.

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