Future of the WTO Essay

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Gonzales (2017) notes that emerging nations are calling for the WTO to support inclusive globalization: “The Philippines, together with the Friends of MSMEs, is seeking appropriate arrangements within the existing framework of the WTO and relevant committees, such as the establishment of a working group under the General Council that will be mandated to consider how the multilateral trading system can impact and benefit MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises], with particular consideration to the needs and interests of developing and least-developed countries.” In other words, as the a new power paradigm emerges in the 21st century, with China and Russia asserting a larger role in the global economic balance of power through trade, emerging nations want reassurance that the WTO will protect them and provide a legal framework that will help them to flourish. Lohr (2016) has shown that the “America First” approach is a direct challenge to the WTO’s purpose of ensuring a concept of fairness and freedom in trade that focuses more on equitability than it does on guaranteeing old power structures.

However, in the past, the WTO has been used not so much to protect emerging nations as it has to protect the interests of more powerful multinationals—such as those based in the West. This protection was provided by legal framework: Rodrik (2016) highlights how “China’s WTO accession agreement, signed in December 2001, permitted the country’s trade partners to deal with China as a ‘non-market economy’ (NME) for a period of up to 15 years. NME status made it a lot easier for importing countries to impose special tariffs on Chinese exports, in the form of antidumping duties.” As a major importer, the U.S. benefitted substantially from this WTO mandate. Yet, before the 15 years were even over, China was being viewed by other trade partners “such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and South Korea” as already having market-economy status. Meanwhile, the U.S. and the EU have refused China this recognition in a territorial bid to maintain their own hegemony in the world trade order of the past.

The WTO officially got its start in 1995, with 123 nations signing on for what would replace the old GATT agreement—the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade—which critics like Sir James opposed on the grounds of its inherent promotion of off-shoring, which James contended undermined the stability of the domestic economy (by taking jobs out of the domestic market) even while it boosted a nation’s GDP on paper (by allowing multinationals to profit at the domestic laborer’s expense) (Quijones, 2012).
The WTO was another manifestation of GATT and essentially a new form of mercantilism (Ahmed & Bick, 2017) made appealing to emerging markets because of the promise of position, which they would have in the new world trade order.

Increasing globalization is the growing interconnectedness of nations’ economies as a cross-border movement of technology, intellectual property, goods, services, and information flows faster and further than ever before in the history of the earth. Thanks in no small part to the rise of the Internet, the integration of economies (shown to be quite intimate during the Global Economic Crisis of 2007-08), has changed the way the world operates and the way trade is not only conducted but, in essence, necessitated. In the past, trade was a natural outcome of what Adam Smith described as the economic extension of the “division of labor”—the concept that by focusing energy on maximizing production in an area that was a natural fit for a particular nation, that nation would be positioned to export its product to nations less fit to produce at the same level. Those other nations would have their own products that they could produce with maximum efficiency and which they could trade with other nations. The cumulative effect would be a kind of balance of power in which trade benefited one and all. In other words, it was an early idealistic example of the multipolar world currently being promoted by Russia and China, whose One Belt, One Road Initiative (Bloomberg, 2017) seeks to tie the East to the West in a manner that would further establish the necessary integration of nations’ economies as though they were all really one economy rather than multiple disparate ones.


Will free trade or protectionism flourish in the future? The question is posed by VanGrasstek (2013) of the WTO itself—and the answer is not easy to discern. The growing body of nations that want to participate in trade around the world has essentially given the lie to….....

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Ahmed, S. & Bick, A. (2017). Trump’s national security strategy: A new brand of mercantilism? Retrieved from http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/08/17/trump-s-national-security-strategy-new-brand-of-mercantilism-pub-72816

Bloomberg. (2017). China’s Silk Road cuts through some of the world’s riskiest countries. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-25/china-s-new-silk-road-runs-mostly-through-junk-rated-territory

Brown, C. (2017). Will the Proposed US Border Tax Provoke WTO Retaliation from Trading Partners? Retrieved from https://piie.com/system/files/documents/pb17-11.pdf

Gonzales, A. (2017). Govt pushing for inclusive globalization at WTO meet. Retrieved from http://www.manilatimes.net/govt-pushing-inclusive-globalization-wto-meet/367928/

Lamy, P. (2012). Emerging economies have shifted the balance of power in world trade. WTO. Retrieved from https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/sppl_e/sppl258_e.htm

Lohr, S. (2016). New approach to corporate tax law has House GOP support. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/12/business/economy/new-approach-to-corporate-tax-reform.html

Quijones, J. (2012). Sir James Goldsmith, an Unlikely Defender of the Common Man. Retrieved from https://ragingbullshit.com/2012/12/19/a-prophetic-voice-from-the-past/

Rodrik, D. (n.d.). Five simple principles for world trade. Retrieved from https://sites.hks.harvard.edu/m-rcbg/research/d.rodrik_american.prospect_five.simple.principles.for.world.trade.pdf

Rodrik, D. (2016). Fairness and free trade. Retrieved from https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/china-market-economy-status-debate-by-dani-rodrik-2016-05?barrier=accessreg

VanGrasstek, C. (2013). The history and future of the World Trade Organization. Retrieved from https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/booksp_e/historywto_e.pdf

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