Simon J. Evenett & Johannes Fritz | 12 Jun 2019

G20 Leaders are due to discuss options to revive the moribund WTO at the upcoming Osaka Summit. The purpose of this Global Trade Alert report is to identify WTO reform options that directly address the first-order problems that have built up over the past decade. Our approach ties prescription to diagnosis. 

Since the last WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2017, trade officials have been struggling to take forward a number of unrelated, incremental initiatives. There is no apparent organising logic, nor any systemic perspective. Worse, the Sino-US trade war has absorbed bandwidth that could have been usefully deployed elsewhere. 

Our evidence-driven approach identifies initiatives that, if taken forward, would reform substantial amounts of world trade. While these initiatives would not require each WTO member’s participation, a data-driven approach that picks the right sectors to reform delivers benefits to the majority of WTO members, drawn from every continent and across levels of development. 

A meaningful reset for the WTO requires a new work programme that reverses the build-up in discrimination against foreign commercial interests witnessed since the global financial crisis began. With this in mind, this report first diagnoses the current woes of the world trading system and then identifies which initiatives could elicit critical mass among the WTO membership.