The End of the Road for the WTO?: A snapshot of international trade policy after Cancun
Published: March 2004
The collapse of the Doha Round in Cancun is symptomatic of a wider malaise in
the WTO. It has an overloaded agenda, and is becoming excessively legalised
and politicised. The “UN-isation” of the WTO proceeds apace. Its decisionmaking
mechanism is crippled. It is therefore not surprising that attention has
shifted decisively to preferential bilateral and regional trade agreements (PTAs).
To prevent permanent irrelevance, the WTO must, first, rediscover its market
access raison d’être; and, second, revive an effective negotiating mechanism. The
alternative is an increasingly fractured world trading system governed by
unbalanced, unstable, power-driven PTAs.