The necessary reform of the WTO is being pressured by various factors throughout the planet, said Roberto Azevêdo, director general of the World Trade Organization, as part of his farewell statements from that position before the General Council this Thursday, in Geneva, Switzerland.
“To secure the future of the WTO, it is essential that members really believe in the need to update the system. Some still believe that the pressures affecting the WTO are localized and therefore temporary. I want to assure you that they are not,” he said.
The WTO was established in 1995 and is the only body that settles international trade disputes globally. It is not part of the United Nations system, nor of the Bretton Woods organizations, such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.
“The pressures on trade and the WTO stem from fundamental structural changes in the global economy. Changes in technology, innovative business models and changes in the balance of economic power: they have all fundamentally altered the way countries and companies interact, not to mention the ways in which we make our daily lives,” said Azevêdo.
The rules that were negotiated in the 1980s and signed in 1994 are still relevant and necessary.
In fact, they are the last bastion that preserves a certain degree of order and predictability in world trade and economic relations. If we lose this, we will lose the fundamental pillars of peace and prosperity, «he added.
However, they can be lost if the WTO reform is not achieved.
“In substantive terms, there is a wide range of problems that are before you right now. Each of them would make a significant contribution to the reform of the WTO,” he said.
But at least as important as the «what» of the WTO reform is the «how».
“The WTO is now powered by 164 members. I don’t have to tell you how different they are and how different they think. A single recipe for everyone will not work.
«We must remember that the agreements in the WTO have always tried to accommodate the diversity of our members with flexibilities of different types,» he said.