Delivering in Nairobi – and After (ESCAP Trade Insights: Issue No.14)

Working paper14 Dec 2015

Much hinges on the outcome of the World Trade Organization's Tenth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in mid-December. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is marking the 20th anniversary of its establishment during the Uruguay Round, almost half a century after 23 countries set up its predecessor for trade in goods, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Yet the mood is far from celebratory. The downbeat feeling is more related to the question of the WTO's relevance, now and in future. The WTO was established in 1995 by 123 countries to seek freer and fairer trade by performing three main functions: 1) to serve as a permanent platform for negotiating on rules and market access issues; 2) to monitor implementation of the WTO Agreements, the legal ground-rules for international trade; and 3) to assist members to resolve disputes under the Dispute Settlement Mechanism. Its inability to shake off the shadow of the widely perceived 'failure' of the Doha Round (launched in November 2001) explains this sense of impotence and tests the 162 members' resolve to make the WTO work for all.