Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Trading Regime

pg. 25: the establishment of a WTO protocol on plurilateral trade agreements and a review of regional free trade and preference agreements [bold in the original] to strengthen guidelines ensuring their consistency with the long-term vitality of the multilateral trading system.

 

Readers' Guide Comment on “the establishment of a WTO protocol on plurilateral trade agreements…”


Currently, WTO trade agreements require a consensus of all members and, according to long standing practice, all revisions to WTO trade agreements have to be adopted as part of a large single package of simultaneously accepted agreements (called the Single Undertaking). WEF’s proposal for a new WTO protocol would allow binding trade agreements to go into force with only some WTO members being on board and without waiting for an integrated package of related trade agreements. In practical terms, this means that the larger economies can strike agreements with each other while having a legal loophole around one of WTO’s core principles, namely that the same trade rules granted to the most-favored trading partner must apply equally to all trading partners.


The purpose of introducing plurilateral agreements at the WTO is to get a new set of rules to help the key powerful members. It just so happens that these key powerful members are principally those members whose “greenroom advantage” 1  has recently been minimized. The plurilateral approach in some way replicates the advantages of the ‘green rooms.’ The ‘key players’ agree on new items, new terms, new trade understandings and then orchestrate others to accept the outcome as ‘normal part’ of diplomacy.


The ideas to divide the whole international trade agenda into more manageable pieces or to make WTO a more democratic organization are not among WEF’s recommendations. 


Related Ideas: Four Tools; Managing economic globalization; Opt-In-Out-outism; Plurilateral coalitions of the willing and able


The Readers' Guide welcomes comments with alternative examples or counter examples, supplemental assessments of the extracted GRI text or commentary – critical or otherwise – of the above interpretation of GRI’s perspective.

  • 1. ^ The ‘green room’ was an informal WTO expression for closed door trade meetings.
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