Brown Bag Seminar “Sustainable Development: Is WTO Part of the Problem?”

Christian Häberli, WTI Fellow and MATS legal advisor, will speak at the World Trade Institute: are the WTO and the multilateral trading system sustainable?

A lot of criticism continues to abound even after the self-claimed success of MC13. There are the obvious grievances about the lack of dispute settlement and the lack of real negotiations. Businesses and NGOs point out the shortcomings in their fields of interest. Arthur Appleton and & Patrick Macrory find problems just about everywhere and make suggestions on how to fix them (2022, Kluwer Law International BV). Other scholars (Aaronson, Baldwin, Evenett, Howse, Mavroidis, Orden et al) argue that WTO has become part of the problem. Not only because of the stalled agriculture and other negotiations, or the incompatibility of the present WTO non-discrimination rules with the Climate Agreement “differentiation” obligation. The pandemic, the energy crisis, and other wars failed to move the debate in Geneva forward for even one inch.

Basically, there seems to be a consensus – outside of WTO – that the multilateral trading system is not sustainable. This raises the question whether Trade Ministry representatives masterminding all WTO proceedings are unable or unwilling to review the present rules? Could scholars or adjudicators find compelling reasons to consider non-international economic law in their assessment of a claim of non-sustainability?

My article will focus on agricultural trade (Working Title: “Agricultural Trade Rules – Where are you?”), but this lecture starts with a lot of context outside agriculture. Yet it will not join the blame game. I only propose to accept the present shortcomings in international trade and investment governance as a leverage for reforms negotiated by those who matter: WTO Member governments, and parliaments.

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