Monday, June 11, 2018

Four More Years for Pascal Lamy as WTO Chief

Well this was a mere formality really as Pascal Lamy ran unopposed for a second term as WTO Director-General, the first time that's happened in the organization's history. And so it's four more years for him without much comment from elsewhere. Were other potential candidates--especially those from LDCs--intimidated by Lamy running again or has this job become passe due to deadlock in the Doha Round and the more recent drop-off in world trade? I have two previous posts exploring some of these issues [1, 2].

In any event, here is part of his 29 April speech a day before the decision was made where he set out his plans for the next four years. It's well worth reading. Here he inveighs against all sorts of regional trade agreements as detracting from the multilateral cause:

On RTAs, it is difficult to see why such deep concessions and commitments are undertaken today in the context of preferential agreements, without any consequences in the multilateral context. We all know this is a complex issue and that there are differences between RTAs aiming at deep regional integration and other free trade agreements. But, if we are serious about the prevalence of the Most-Favoured-Nation principle, we should collectively think about some way of gradually “multilateralising” concessions made in free trade agreements. Food for thought for Article XXIV negotiators.
He ends by making seemingly sensible suggestions going forward of not overly publicizing ministerial meetings and having meaningful negotiations evenly spread out. Plus, he reaffirms the value of the WTO at a time when it is being questioned. A few changes here and there, not a wholesale makeover is required sayeth he:
Let me close by addressing the question of WTO ministerial meetings, which many of you have raised during our consultations. We should de-dramatize ministerial meetings, make them a more regular exercise, where WTO activities are reviewed across the board, to ascertain the level of satisfaction of members with the running of WTO activities and to address priorities at a political level. We have not had a ministerial meeting since 2005 and my own sense is that we should not close 2009 without one. A regular ministerial meeting is one thing; ministerial involvement in negotiations is another. We should not confuse the two.

In conclusion, Mr Chairman, no major surgery needed in the WTO. No major overhaul of the system is required. But rather a long to-do list to strengthen the global trading system. I am ready to do my part and to assist members in achieving the objectives of this Organization. The WTO, as a living organism, should continue to improve its capacity to rapidly react to global challenges, as we are seeing in the current crisis, and to contribute to devising solutions to those challenges.
It's a pretty rich reward for mission unaccomplished (inheriting and not completing a Doha deal), methinks.

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