Audio of the roundtable debate from the WTO’s multilateralising regionalism conference is now available.
Shorter Jagdish Bhagwati: We should primarily solve regionalism by driving MFN tariff rates to zero. But I’m open to attacking the problem by whatever means available.
Shorter Richard Baldwin: Over the last fifty years, the GATT succeeded by flexibly adapting to trading challenges. Regionalism has been relatively tame thus far, it’s here to stay, and it’s the new challenge that must be tackled. The WTO can’t pretend to innocently stand aside. It must engage the issue and adapt.
Shorter Arsene Balihuta: Countries say one thing at the WTO and do another while cooking up spaghetti. While developed countries negotiating in Geneva are still beholden to mercantilism and protectionism, it’s even uglier when they turn to preferential trade agreements driven by the “mercantilist thirst for captive markets.” We should empower the WTO to persuade those cooking spaghetti outside Geneva to keep in mind that they must inevitably return to multilateralism.
Shorter Eirik Glenne: Regionalism is unavoidable and suboptimal. We know it’s a problem. Addressing these problems is going to take a long time, and the WTO will have to acquire new authority to address PTAs.
Shorter Mario Matus: The WTO is going in the right direction at the wrong speed. Chile needs to reduce poverty faster, so we’re increasing trade faster. We opened unilaterally, then negotiated PTAs which comprehensively cover issues beyond tariffs. For example, we bilaterally negotiated with Canada to end the use of anti-dumping measures. We complement the DSM by bilateral means – where rules overlap, we defer to the WTO. But Chile is still active in the WTO and very keen to promote its succcess. We need a successful Doha to mitigate some of the dangers we face.
Shorter Sun Zhenyu: Regionalism is rampant, but the real future lies in multilateralism. The WTO is not well-positioned to stimulate the multilateralisation of regionalism. The most important task is to complete the Doha round to keep the system running.
I do seem to like Arsene Balihuta’s statements. However, it’s more like “noodles” instead of “spaghetti” for Asian countries, to make the proper food analogy 🙂