Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Azevêdo: “WTO accession is a success story of the organization”


Azevêdo: “WTO accession is a success story of the organization”

Azevêdo: “WTO accession is a success story of the organization”

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo launched a new publication entitled on Day 1 of the Public Forum on 30 September 2015, entitled “WTO Accessions and Trade Multilateralism: Case Studies and Lessons from the WTO at Twenty”.

He highlighted that since the WTO was established 20 years ago, 33 economies have joined the WTO, representing approximately 20 per cent of the WTO membership.

DG Azevêdo said that the ideals of the post‑war Bretton Woods framework – global economic governance, greater openness, prosperity and stability among nations – “remains central to our vision of the WTO today”.

“By bringing an increasing number of countries together in an atmosphere of cooperation and shared rules”, he said, “the multilateral trading system is a means not just to achieve growth and development, but also to support peaceful relations.”

“Increasing the membership of the WTO has always been a priority for us – not as an end in itself, but as a means to extend the coverage of multilateral trade rules and principles. Whenever a new country goes through the process of integrating into the multilateral trading system we see tariffs being lowered, market access increased, and the principles of non-discrimination, transparency and predictability further affirmed.

“The overall effect of increasing the membership is therefore to boost growth, increase stability in the global economy, strengthen the Organization and therefore to improve global trade governance – which is what the WTO is all about.”

DG Azevêdo’s full speech is available here.

The book, co-edited by Uri Dadush and Chiedu Osakwe, reviews the impact that 20 years of WTO accession negotiations has had on domestic reforms. It tackles a number of questions: What have WTO accessions contributed to the rules-based multilateral trading system? What demands have been made by original WTO members on acceding governments? How have the acceding governments fared? 

The volume of essays offers critical readings on how WTO accession negotiations have expanded the reach of the multilateral trading system not only geographically but also conceptually, clarifying disciplines and pointing the way to their further strengthening in future negotiations.

In the age of globalization there is an increased need for a universal system of trade rules. Accession negotiations have been used by governments as an instrument for domestic reforms, and one lesson from the accession process is that there are contexts which lead multilateral trade negotiations to successful outcomes even in the complex and multi-polar twenty-first century economic environment. 

The publication, co-published by the WTO and Cambridge University Press, brings together contributions from 54 authors, including Accession Working Party chairpersons, chief negotiators and technical experts.

Speaking at the launch, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed of Kenya congratulated members that have joined the WTO since 1995 – and those still in the queue – for choosing the path of domestic reforms to join the WTO.

She said: “They have not only expanded the reach of multilateral trade rules and their values, they have expanded and deepened these rules which are more progressive, contemporary and meaningful, in tune with the 21st century commercial agenda and reality.” Ms Mohamed’s full speech is available here.

Co-editor Uri Dadush noted that he and his fellow co-editor, Chiedu Osakwe, Director of the WTO Accessions Division, had decided at the outset of this project that “the focus of the book was on the welfare outcomes and not on the fairness of the negotiating process”.

The co‑editors had determined that “the value of accessions should stand or fall on the answer to two questions: did they help the Article XII member achieve better development outcomes? Did they strengthen the multilateral trading system?” He said that the contributions by the 54 authors demonstrated clearly that the answer to these questions had to be in both instances: “yes”.

Co-publisher Kim Hughes from Cambridge University Press noted that this co-publication has the largest number of contributors for any single volume in the 15-year history of the WTO and Cambridge University Press publishing partnership, and looked forward to more joint projects.


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