WTO Decision-Making for the Future

Decision making in the WTO has become ever more difficult as the number of members increases and the range of issues tackled broadens.

This paper looks at reasons why aspects of decision-making might be changed and discusses a number of potential pitfalls that change would have to avoid, such as a dilution of commitments and fragmentation of the multilateral trading system. It then takes a detailed look at the notion of ‘critical mass’ decision-making. It argues for this approach under certain conditions, as it would:
i) allow for the emergence of a more progressive and responsive WTO agenda;
ii) blunt the diversion of trade cooperation initiatives to RTAs;
iii) allow more efficient differentiation in the levels of rights and obligations among a community of highly diverse economies;
and iv) promote greater efficiency in multilaterally-based negotiations on trade rules, and perhaps, sectoral market access agreements.

No: ERSD-2011-05

Patrick Low — WTO

Manuscript date: May 2011

Key Words:

GATT/WTO; negotiations; decision-making

JEL classification numbers:

F1, F5

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This is a working paper, and hence it represents research in progress. This paper represents the opinions of the author, and is the product of professional research. It is not meant to represent the position or opinions of the WTO or its Members, nor the official position of any staff members. Any errors are the fault of the author. Copies of working papers can be requested from the divisional secretariat by writing to: Economic Research and Statistics Division, World Trade Organization, Rue de Lausanne 154, CH 1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland. Please request papers by number and title.

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