Edited by Ulrich Volz
Chapter 5: The Future of the Multilateral Trading System in a Multi-polar World
5. The future of the multilateral trading system in a multi-polar world* Jeffrey J. Schott 5.1 INTRODUCTION On 1 January, 2010, the World Trade Organization (WTO) celebrated its fifteenth birthday. Like any teenager, it confronts growing pains and awkward social adjustments as it addresses the new challenges of globalization in the twenty-first century. This chapter examines the world trading system in this dynamic era. Particular attention is given to the interaction of the two major channels of trade negotiation in the global system: the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, and regional trade agreements or RTAs.1 The future of the multilateral trading system is a big topic and my analysis is accordingly highly condensed to meet the constraints of this short chapter. I start with a brief discussion of the Doha Round, putting it into historical context, and then examine concerns about the proliferation of RTAs. I then summarize the extensive debate on whether regionalism complements or conflicts with the broad goals of the WTO system. In the final section, I outline three broad and interrelated initiatives that should be pursued to resolve the internal and external conflicts that risk diluting the WTO’s salience as a forum for international negotiation in the years ahead. 5.2 THE MULTILATERAL TRADING SYSTEM IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT The great triumph of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was creating a prosperous multi-polar trading system from the uni-polar system that emerged from World War II. The early decades of * © Peterson Institute for International Economics....
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