The news today is dominated by trade issues in a way not seen since perhaps the clash between the United States and Japan in the 1980s. The headlines point to a trade war between the United States and China, and strained trade relations between South Korea and Japan. The trading system has not delivered new multilateral agreements during the last five years. The WTO dispute-settlement system appears to be breaking down. It appears to be getting easier to depart from international agreements.
What is the current status of these issues, how do they affect the operations of the WTO, and what (if any) is the good news? What can be achieved by June 2020, when the next formal WTO ministerial meeting will be held? What is the long-term picture for multilateralism? Are regional arrangements going to be the new architecture of the trading system? Is the pendulum swinging permanently away from global value chains?
The Lowy Institute hosted Alan Wolff, Deputy Director-General of the WTO, for a discussion of the risks and opportunities facing world trade at this decisive moment.
Mr Wolff became WTO Deputy Director-General in October 2017, after a long career in international trade, including as chief trade lawyer of the US executive branch, Chairman of the National Foreign Trade Council, as a senior US trade negotiator, and private law practitioner. He has served and advised both Republican and Democratic administrations in the US.