A First Step to Revive the Rules-Based Trading System

Though it has been struggling with challenges for some time, current nationalist and populist tendencies around the world pose a far more serious threat to the World Trade Organization than anything previously seen. The revival of the rules-based trading system will not happen without a renewed American commitment to multilateralism, but the United States cannot do it alone. Developing countries gain most from this system and should take the lead in a new negotiation to reinforce core WTO principles, including transparency, predictability and nondiscrimination. The principal objective of the proposed negotiating agenda would be confidence building, not market access, and it should be embraced by all WTO members. While modest in its economic effects, an agenda building on the Trade Facilitation Agreement—without special and differential treatment for developing countries—could be a first step along the road to more fundamental reforms.

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