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The WTO in suspense: is medieval decision-making part of the problem? Robert Wolfe WTO Public Forum September 26, 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "The WTO in suspense: is medieval decision-making part of the problem? Robert Wolfe WTO Public Forum September 26, 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 The WTO in suspense: is medieval decision-making part of the problem? Robert Wolfe WTO Public Forum September 26, 2006

2 2 Medieval WTO? WTO Members vastly different levels of development political and legal systems based on divergent premises unequally penetrated by social and economic forces of globalization Overlapping regulatory domains WTO universe plural if not medieval process for making legitimate decisions inevitably untidy.

3 3 Negotiation analysis approach NOT does WTO handle the right issues, or provide good policy advice NOT political economy of a compromise Is institutional design appropriate? does WTO facilitate understanding the issues? does the process facilitate agreement? Was this round doomed from start? In sum, does WTO need reform?

4 4 Suspension non-issues Will evolutionary action be displaced to dispute settlement system? No Are regional negotiations an alternative? No Is it all down to the EU and the U.S.? No But power still counts Is there a democratic deficit? No But much has changed since Seattle, and institutional design matters

5 5 WTO decision rules Consensus WTO never takes votes Single Undertaking Nothing is agreed until everything and everybody is agreed Bottom up on the rocks? Members want a bottom-up process with content coming from them: Chairpersons should reflect consensus, or where this is not possible, different positions on issues. Death by [square brackets]? Also problems with reciprocity, modalities, meetings

6 6 1) Modalities complexity Negotiating development agenda a conceptual minefield Rules inherently multilateral, especially behind the border, but applicability varies widely Services modalities dont work No more Request-Offer for market access principal supplier favours large over small Formula approach elegant, multilateral, confusing coefficients remove ambiguity Equal rates = disparate nominal cuts: fair?

7 7 2) The tangled web of bargains Past and present N N (reciprocal) N S (non-reciprocal demanded) S N (resisted as illegitimate) S S (ignored?) Arrows indicate direction of concessions Future? N S (ODA) N BRICSAM (reciprocal) BRICSAM BRICSAM (reciprocal) BRICSAM S (non- reciprocal?)

8 8 3) Reaching a consensus, with 149 Members Ministerial Conferences Formal (for the record) General Council TNC Negotiating groups Informal (where the work is done) Mini-ministerials Senior officials Coalitions Bilaterals Friends of… Hundreds of meetings in and out of Geneva: groups help manage the chaos…

9 G-10 G-33 ACP LDCs Cairns Group G-20 EU G-25 G–90 Recent new African Group Chad Burkina Faso Burundi Togo Central African Rep Djibouti DR Congo Mali Gambia Guinea Guinea Bissau Lesotho Malawi Mauritania Niger Sierra Leone Rwanda Benin Madagascar Senegal Uganda Zambia Tanzania Belize Barbados Antigua/Barbuda Dominican Rep Grenada Guyana St Vincent/Grenadines Trinidad/Tobago Jamaica Suriname St Kitts/Nevis St Lucia Gabon Ghana Namibia Honduras Mongolia Nicaragua Panama Peru Sri Lanka Turkey Nigeria Zimbabwe Botswana Cameroon Congo Côte dIvoire Kenya Mozambique Egypt Tunisia Morocco Angola Swaziland Mauritius R Korea Iceland Israel Japan Liechtenstein Norway Switzerland Ch Taipei Austria Belgium Cyprus Czech R Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Netherlands Poland Portugal Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden UK Mexico India China Venezuela Dominica Fiji Papua New Guinea Indonesia Pakistan Philippines Cuba Haiti Armenia Bulgaria FY Rep Macedonia Romania Australia Canada Colombia Costa Rica Guatemala Malaysia N Zealand Chile Brazil Bolivia Uruguay Thailand Paraguay Argentina Bangladesh Cambodia Maldives Myanmar Nepal Hong Kong, Ch Saudi Arabia El Salvador Macao, Ch Singapore Kyrgyz R Qatar UAE Brunei Kuwait Bahrain Ecuador Albania Croatia Georgia Jordan Moldova Oman S Africa Solomon Islands USA G–1 Source: ICTSD and WTO

10 10 The evolving logic Diverse issues and Members = Single Undertaking Single Undertaking = consensus, not voting Consensus = seeking compromise informally in a bottom-up process Overlapping interests = multiple small groups for each Member Many Members = Green Room (small informal) Green Rooms = red flags [G-6 finished?]

11 11 Does it need fixing? Two approaches: 1.How interests are aggregated changes outcomes 2.Deliberation aids learning, which changes outcomes

12 12 If its all about interests Agenda an institutional design choice: What must be in the Single Undertaking? Doha initial agenda too broad May now have contracted too much for OECD Are less-than-universal agreements appropriate? critical mass in NAMA, plurilateral in services differentiation among developing countries: round for free? But beware of temptation to cherry pick The package matters

13 13 If learning also matters Collective decision engaging all Members requires: 1. Consensual understanding of problems and interests 2. Deliberation that makes effective bargaining legitimate 3. Domestic resonance Learning incomplete at home and in Geneva? 1. Negotiation by communiqué impedes mixed strategy? 2. Do negotiators understand implications of changing roles of developing countries, both BRICSAM and bottom billion? 3. Do negotiators (both Delhi and Washington) have the public understanding that provides room to maneuver?

14 14 Reform needed? WTO changes through practice Journey not the destination Doha about learning to negotiate in a truly multilateral way, with many more, and more disparate, Members If WTO is medieval, its because the world is too

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