Ahead of the World Trade Organization’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in November, a new report  from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and selected members of the Global Trade and Innovation Policy Alliance (GTIPA) urges the WTO to make several reforms as global trade challenges continue to grow. If the WTO fails to make changes, its influence will further weaken due to loss of faith in globalization and rrsing protectionist industrial policies.
“The WTO is facing a deep crisis and is in desperate need of change,” said Stephen Ezell, vice president of global innovation policy at ITIF and co-author of the report. “With no significant new trade liberalizing agreements since the 1996 Information Technology Agreement (ITA) and China flaunting its systemic innovation mercantilism, the WTO’s relevance continues to recede. The WTO needs reform if it wants to continue to play a critical role as a forum establishing and enforcing trade rules for a free and fair global market.”
The report, co-authored by ITIF and several members of the GTIPA—the German Economic Institute, the Innovative Economy Forum from South Korea, the Free Market Foundation from South Africa, and the Property Rights Alliance from the United States—highlights several key measures for WTO reform goals:
* Make the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in November a success, also by minimizing or removing export restrictions and ensuring access to vaccines and other medical goods, concluding subsidies negotiations for fisheries, expanding the ITA by bringing in new members and negotiating an ITA-3, and making substantive and effective Dispute Settlement Body reforms;
* Advance progress in e-commerce by measures such as maintaining the WTO e-commerce customs duty moratorium, protecting the free-flow of data across borders, and resolving digital trade disputes;
* Reform and reinstate the WTO Appellate Body by advancing the Walker Process;
* Strengthen WTO rules regarding excessive industrial subsidies;
* Implement a Pluri-Regional Trade Partnership of Like-Minded-Countries (PTPL) spearheaded by the European Union and the United States, and also comprising Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Chile, Mexico, and many other industrialized and emerging economies;
* Cooperate on trade-environment issues by measures such as creating a climate innovation club that gives flexible open-trade benefits to nations with ambitious, transparent, and enforceable climate targets and by strengthening the monitoring power of the WTO’s Committee on Trade and the Environment (CTE);
* Reform processes in Geneva by encouraging the WTO’s new director-general to foster more substantive communication for members and enable the WTO secretariat to table initiatives.
“A well-functioning WTO is indispensable to a well-functioning international economy,” said Ezell. “It is time for the WTO to take the next steps needed to stay relevant.”