Organization activities

The WTO as a global organization should never fall prey to politicization

World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during the opening ceremony of the 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, June 12, 2022. /CFP

World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during the opening ceremony of the 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, June 12, 2022. /CFP

Editor’s note: Hamzah Rifaat Hussain, a former visiting scholar at the Stimson Center in Washington and a former research assistant at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, is a television presenter at Indus News in Pakistan. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of CGTN.

The 12th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Geneva has been described as a hugely important meeting by WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Since its inception in 1995, the organization has been committed to upholding and promoting the spirit of addressing significant global challenges such as food insecurity, unfair trade practices and threats to collective prosperity that continue to haunt its members in 2022. The key, however, lies in ensuring that global agreements are reached by consensus while multilateralism is promoted through joint efforts. Unilateral attempts to upset the principles of fair trade and joint cooperation must, on the other hand, be denounced and rejected.

The message is clear from the start. Opening the conference, the WHO chief insisted on launching reforms and ensuring that political will overcomes the significant challenges to the world order that emanate from the crisis in Ukraine and the pandemic. To achieve these goals, it is essential to ensure that the search for consensus prevails over unilateral opposition. Note that all 164 members of the WTO must unanimously agree to trade deals for them to materialize where opposition from one state can easily derail and stall progress.

Accordingly, it is imperative that initiatives such as a global security package to address impending food shortages be implemented in the absence of reckless organizational coercion and politicization, which has been a feature of the US approach to the WTO.

The entrance to the headquarters of the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 12, 2022. /CFP

The entrance to the headquarters of the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 12, 2022. /CFP

Take the example of Washington’s attempts to replace trade issues with geopolitics. The United States has previously blocked judges from the organization’s appellate body and created a system of power relations in trade rather than promoting trade based on international rules and regulations. Such moves have had a negative impact on dispute resolution where cases brought before the organization have lengthened without a fixed deadline. While former US President Donald Trump and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer have sharply criticized the organization and promoted unilateralism, the approach of the Joe Biden administration since taking office in 2021 has not been too much. different.

As global supply chains were shaken in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, the Biden administration’s response has been to pressure US allies to suspend trade relations with China and promote initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which have been seen as attempts at economic decoupling with China. Initiatives such as the IPEF also do not include a uniform policy of lower tariffs, which is essential for multilateral trade to flourish.

Similarly, on food insecurity, the United States imposed draconian sanctions on sovereign countries, which put enormous pressure on trade while exaggerating the food and energy crisis in the process. As many WTO members seek to end world hunger and boost agricultural activity through a strong, vibrant and resilient multilateral trading system, the policies of the Biden administration have been divisive. .

The pursuit of hegemony in 2022 is a challenge to the WTO’s goal of promoting a fair and just global trading order. From potential research initiatives that could facilitate better commerce between states to addressing topics such as e-commerce and digital commerce, great power politics should not divert the potential of WTO to provide holistic solutions to international problems. By adopting policies such as the stripping of China, the United States would continue to go against the principles of instituting meaningful reforms. Perhaps it is worth Washington heeding the message of WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala, who made it clear that demonizing China will not lead to reforms while engaging with Beijing can lead to constructive approaches.

Thus, the mission of the WTO should no longer be hijacked by hegemonic practices or grossly politicized.

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