The WTO in Buenos Aires: The Outcome and its Significance for the Future of the Multilateral Trading System

21 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2018

See all articles by Erin Hannah

Erin Hannah

University of Western Ontario - Applied Mathematics Department

James Scott

King's College London

Rorden Wilkinson

Brooks World Poverty Institute

Date Written: October 2018

Abstract

The conclusion of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Buenos Aires ministerial conference (10–13 December 2017) was immediately celebrated and derided in equal measure. For its supporters, Buenos Aires opened the way toward negotiations in e‐commerce, investment facilitation for development, and measures designed to help micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs). For its detractors, the meeting underscored the gridlock that continues to blight the WTO's negotiating function and underlined the organisation's declining credibility as a mechanism for governing global trade. In this paper we provide one of the first full length critical evaluations of the Buenos Aires conference and its outcome. In so doing, we offer answers to three questions. What accounts for such dramatically different assessments of the meeting's outcome? How should the outcome be interpreted? What is its significance for the future of the WTO and the multilateral trading system? We argue that the meeting's outcome was indeed significant. It has consolidated the process of reconfiguring the WTO's negotiating function; and it enables members to tackle more effectively a range of pressing economic and social issues as well as to navigate blockers and blockages in the negotiations. However, it also poses challenges for the WTO's poorest constituents.

Keywords: ministerial conferences, negotiations, World Trade Organization

Suggested Citation

Hannah, Erin and Scott, James and Wilkinson, Rorden, The WTO in Buenos Aires: The Outcome and its Significance for the Future of the Multilateral Trading System (October 2018). The World Economy, Vol. 41, Issue 10, pp. 2578-2598, 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3264307 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/twec.12657

Erin Hannah (Contact Author)

University of Western Ontario - Applied Mathematics Department ( email )

1151 Richmond Street
London, Ontario N6A 3K7
Canada

James Scott

King's College London ( email )

Strand
London, England WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

Rorden Wilkinson

Brooks World Poverty Institute ( email )

Humanities Bridgeford Street Building
Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom

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