How to fix the WTO: A holistic framework for reform

ICC has proposed a framework that sets out a holistic vision for reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) from the perspective of the global business community. Such a framework is necessary to ensure a comprehensive approach to reform across the three vital functions of the organisation.

Frequently asked questions

The WTO needs reform because all three of the WTO’s key functions are no longer working as they were set up to do when the organisation was founded in 1995. The organisation’s two-tier dispute settlement function has broken down. For over twenty years, the negotiating function has largely been at an impasse. The rulebook, which was agreed almost 30 years ago, needs to be updated to address the challenges of trading in today’s complex environment. Lastly, the monitoring and deliberative function is stiffled, resulting in failures to deliver its basic duties of transparency and oversight.

The WTO is facing six key challenges which have direct implications for the WTO’s three vital functions and the well-functioning of the organisation:
a leadership deficit,
the increasing complexity of trade policy issues,
the increasing diversity of membership, a divergence from the “common purpose” of the system as enshrined in the Marrakesh Agreement, the WTO’s foundational document,
a lack of trust and rising protectionism, trade barriers and fragmentation.

A framework for reform is essential for ensuring the effectiveness of any reform discussion and change management process. Without a clear and coherent vision and blueprint, reform discussions risk overlooking key issues and failing to garner the necessary buy-in, resulting in confusion, stagnation, potential obstruction and even failure.