In December 2017, the representatives of 164 member states met in Buenos Aires at the WTO Ministerial Conference to discuss the future trade policy agenda. GED was present in Buenos Aires too, with its Expert Board on the Future of Trade Governance presenting further thoughts on how to improve the functioning of the WTO itself. The disappointing outcome of the Ministerial Conference underlines the necessity for improvements in the workings of the organisation.


EU Trade Commissioner Malmström described the Buenos Aires Ministerial Conference (MC11) as a “lost opportunity. It failed to achieve any multilateral outcome.” Her frustration is widely shared. Given the critical stance on the WTO by the US delegation, expectations of MC11 were modest from the start. Ahead of the conference, many hoped that progress in some areas that have been of interest to the USA could be made, for example in ending subsidies for illegal fisheries as practiced by some WTO member states. During the conference, it became soon clear that not even such a minimal compromise could be reached. In the end, there was not even a joint declaration at the end of the conference as the USA and India could not agree on the wording.


The policy making community agreed that this is a worse than expected outcome of the Ministerial Conference. For many, there was agreement that the underlying issues for the slow progress need to be identified and addressed. This is of course precisely the task that the GED’s High-Level Board of Experts on the Future of Trade Governance set itself when it started its work in May 2017. On the sidelines of MC11, at the Trade and Sustainable Development Symposium on the sidelines of MC11, the Board presented its interim report and discussed it with other experts on the matter.


Watch the video above and find out what Andreas Esche (Director of the Shaping Sustainable Economies programme of the Bertelsmann Stiftung), Bernard Hoekman (Chairman of the Board of Experts), Taeho Bark (former Korean Minister for Trade), Carlos Primo Braga (IMD and Fundacao Dom Cabral), Douglas Lippoldt (Chief trade economist HSBC) and Hector Torres (former Executive Director at the IMF) are thinking on appropriate measures to strengthen the multilateral trading framework.