Core themes

The 2012 Public Forum is structured on the basis of three core themes that aim at illuminating the current state of the multilateral trading system. In order to answer the question whether multilateralism is in crisis the following core themes will provide the structure for this year’s Forum:


WTO Public Forum 2011
WTO Public Forum 2010
WTO Public Forum 2009
WTO Public Forum 2008


Overall theme: Is multilateralism in crisis?

Sessions concerning this theme: 6, 16, 18, 26, 30, 33, 39, 43


I. Formulating new approaches to multilateral trade opening

Objectives: To identify challenges facing multilateralism today and to look at ways of making headway in topics where progress can be made.

Discussion points: While the Doha Round is at an impasse, certain elements of the WTO work programme continue to work well, such as trade monitoring, the administration of the existing rule-book, and capacity building for developing countries. Topics under active discussion within the Doha Round negotiations include services and trade facilitation (i.e. easing the transfer of goods across borders). Non-Doha issues being discussed include government procurement practices, the expansion of the WTO Information Technology Agreement, WTO accession for least-developed countries (LDCs), and special and differential treatment for LDCs.

In addition, there is a need to ensure compatibility between the WTO and preferential trade agreements (PTAs). Institutional decision-making at the WTO may need to be addressed to encourage a more progressive and responsive WTO agenda that could contribute to greater efficiency in multilateral negotiations on trade rules.

Sessions concerning this theme: 8, 11, 29, 36, 37


II. Addressing 21st century issues

Objectives:  To reflect on the existing trade rules and examine how the WTO should adapt to deal  with 21st century challenges, including food security, trade in natural resources and their impact on the environment, the link between trade and jobs, as well as the phenomenon of global supply chains. 

Discussion points: The political, economic, and social aspects of the world we live in today are very different to those that existed a decade ago. While the nature of trade has changed radically over the past two decades, economists’ and governments’ thinking about trade governance has not. As a result, there is a widening gap between existing trade rules and the current realities of the new century. Examining how the WTO should adapt to deal with these new challenges has become increasingly important as the organization reflects on the way forward.

Sessions concerning this theme: 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 28, 35, 38, 40, 41


III. Looking at the role of non-state actors in strengthening the multilateral trading system

Objectives: To provide an opportunity for non-state actors, such as civil society organizations, to look at their role in strengthening the multilateral trading system in these challenging times as the WTO reflects on the way forward. In particular, discussions will focus on how civil society should monitor the implementation of trade agreements.

Discussion points: In the last few years, the level of participation of non-state actors in the international trading system has increased substantially. The WTO acknowledges the important role of non-state actors in increasing public awareness of trade issues and WTO activities and in ensuring accountability for decisions taken at the international level. The Forum provides an opportunity to address how non-state actors can further strengthen the international trading system. 

Sessions concerning this theme: 5, 15, 24, 27, 31, 32, 34, 42


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