The WTO Under Pressure:
Tackling the deadlock in multilateral trade
Johanna Jacobsson & Marikki Stocchetti
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs
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Multilateral trade liberalisation is in crisis. The WTO’s
ambitiously named Doha Development Round has been ongoing for more than a
decade. Only a few limited issues remain on the negotiation agenda.
While the round is being increasingly declared dead even by
WTO members themselves, the same countries are concluding deeper trade
agreements than ever before. Such progress, however, takes place at the
bilateral and regional level.
Another major development is the appearance of deep
regulatory issues on the trade agenda. The shift from customs tariffs to
countries’ internal policies requires a certain like-mindedness from
negotiation partners and poses challenges for national decision-making
Developing countries have gained less from multilateral trade
liberalisation than what they had hoped for. The shift towards more fragmented
trade regimes makes them even more prone to remain bystanders in global trade.
At the WTO’s next ministerial conference in Bali, progress
on agriculture, trade facilitation and the treatment of the poorest countries
would give a much-needed signal that the WTO can still benefit all of its