In the midst of profound contemporary shifts and shocks facing humankind, a quarter of a century after its creation the World Trade Organization (WTO) is evidently not where pressing trade problems are being solved. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as a lens, the purpose of this volume is to offer insights into the underlying choices faced by WTO members as well as to offer pragmatic suggestions for a WTO work programme over the next three years. Our assumption is not that the COVID-19 pandemic changes everything, but it is an excellent example of the type of shock that the governments and the WTO must respond to. That shock interacts with the underlying shifts taking place in the world economy, as many of the chapters in this volume make clear.
As a result, the 22 contributions in this volume go beyond typical agreement-specific silo thinking and reflect upon:
• The effectiveness of the WTO during crises
• The WTO’s place in the firmament that is the world trading system, given that cross-border trade is so dependent on practices governed by other national, regional, and international bodies, such as those dealing with shipping, air transportation, etc.
• The appropriacy of the current WTO rule book.
This timely volume, published on the eve of the appointment of a new Director-General and just after a pivotal US presidential election, will be of interest to trade policymakers, diplomats, analysts, and scholars of the multilateral trading system.