image of Introduction

This book examines three issues that are central to the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO): dispute settlement; the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations; and the relationship between regional integration and the multilateral trading system. Dispute settlement is often described as one of the most successful functions of the WTO. Some commentators have expressed concern about the imbalance between the effectiveness of the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism, on the one hand, and the difficulties facing the WTO as a negotiating forum, on the other hand. Some of these concerns may have been put to rest with the successful launch of the DDA in 2001. At the time this book was edited, intense negotiations were taking place in the context of the DDA, but much remained to be negotiated. It has long been recognized that regional integration could support the aims of the multilateral trading system. Today, however, several observers are expressing concern about the proliferation of regional trade agreements (RTAs). These observers fear that, unless the DDA is concluded successfully, there will be greater pressure on WTO Members to pursue bilateral and regional avenues for trade liberalization, which could undermine the multilateral trading system. Thus, these three issues – dispute settlement, multilateral negotiations, and regional trade agreements – are closely inter-related and the future of the WTO in many ways may depend on how these three issues are addressed in the coming years.

Related Topics: The WTO
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