Chapter Six: World Trade Organization

VIII. The Future Of The WTO

Criticizing the WTO is a popular sport, and its meetings have often provided high-profile opportunities for the anti-globalization mafia to throw a spoke in the wheel of international economic cooperation.

Hopefully it will be clear from the above account of the organization and from previous chapters that, of all the 'multilaterals', it is the one that does the most good, and is the one which least deserves the odium it receives. It is not the WTO's fault that its rich country members such as the EU and the USA have dug their heels in over agricultural and other subsidies, to the detriment of the Doha Round and of developing countries in general. The EU's Common Agricultural Policy is one of the most protectionist and one could even say cruel pieces of economic regulation in existence because of its impact on poor people in developing countries.

The WTO can be criticized, however, for a lack of democratic legitimacy. It is reasonably transparent, yes, and its nation state members certainly have one vote each at all times; but there is no recourse to the votes of ordinary people at any stage of its operations. Of course this criticism applies to all of the multilaterals. It is discussed in Chapter 8 (The Future of the State), and the conclusion is that, as Winston Churchill said about democracy, the structure of the WTO is flawed, but any other structure would be worse. That discussion does however set out the case for the establishment of an international 'guardian of the guardians' - a body with an auditing role in relation to such institutions as the WTO.

In addition to such a global auditor, there will eventually, perhaps, be one integrated world economic governance body. As has been apparent from the seemingly endless lists of international bodies set out in previous chapters, and in Appendix 1, there is no shortage of candidate organizations for the job of global economic supervisor, and plenty of overlap between existing, partial supervisors. Of all the competing organizations, however, the WTO seems both the best structured and the most successful to date. Also, and very importantly, it is one of the very few international economic organizations which both makes rules and enforces them

It would seem logical to bring some of the existing, free-standing economic governance organizations under the wing of the WTO, for instance the International Standards Organization. The IMF and the World Bank, if they end up as standard-setting organizations without clear financing roles – something which seems more likely than not – would also be candidates for integration with the WTO. Even the OECD, which suffers from being just a 'rich-country' organization, and has no judicial or dispute resolution equipment, might be better off inside the WTO.

These suggestions will perhaps stun or outrage many, and the time is not yet ripe perhaps for them to be taken seriously. But in the later, more speculative chapters of this book it is assumed that the WTO will in time come to have a dominant global supervisory role on the economic level.