The WTO and the Multilateral Trading System: Past, Present and Future

This book charts the evolution of the multilateral trading system over the past half century and explores the future outlook for the intergovernmental body that constitutes its institutional base and which is responsible for governing the conduct of global commerce, the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The author, a leading authority on international trade, identifies the distinct trends that have characterised the historical progression of the system, from the formulation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947 through the WTO's inception in 1995 to the present day. He examines how the GATT/WTO framework has traditionally been used by the major industrial nations as a vehicle to pursue their own narrow economic and political interests, at the expense of Third World countries' development prospects. This North-South imbalance continues to pervade the multilateral trade regime today, in the form of inherent inequities in the WTO agreements and their implementation, and attempts to insert potentially damaging new issues into the WTO agenda. Further, this book traces the intimate links between these substantive deficiencies and the WTO's murky decision-making processes, which are dominated by its developed country members to the detriment of the developing countries. Looking to the future, the author asserts that such one-sidedness cannot and must not persist if the WTO is to foster a healthy stability in international economic relations. Towards this end, he advances concrete suggestions for radical reform in the basic structure, rules and practices of the trade body, and for complementary actions on the part of other institutional, governmental and non-governmental actors. The analysis and proposals laid out in this book are throughout grounded in a practical perspective aimed at yielding the cooperation and mutual gain among nations that are required to harvest the full benefits of international trade.