The WTO signed a mini-package of trade initiatives in Bali last week. This column argues that the ‘Bali package’ is welcome but not enough. Without some new initiative or direction, the WTO looks set to drift for the next few years. The WTO cannot move ahead until the trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic ‘mega-regionals’ are done or dead. In the meantime, the WTO should promote research and discussion on how 21st-century trade issues could be brought into the WTO when the time is ripe.
Intensifying negotiations leading to the December WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali have renewed optimism for concluding the beleaguered Doha Round and boosting Asia’s trade. Agreement in Bali on tariff-quota administration, trade facilitation, and food security would improve the prospects for a Doha deal and WTO credibility. Failure at Bali, however, would spur the rise of mega-regional trade agreements – to the detriment of countries outside these agreements.
The IMF loans to Greece, Ireland and Portugal are considered controversial by some analysts. This column argues that these loans – granted without having agreed on convincing paths to manageable debt levels – constituted a substantial departure from IMF principles. The situation is costly for Europe and, having now permanently changed the principles guiding large IMF loans, it will be costly for crises to come. A serious rethink of the management and decision-making structure of the IMF is needed.
The WTO risks losing its centricity in the world trading system due to its focus on 20th century trade issues and lack of progress in the Doha Round. This column introduces a new eBook that looks at how Asia meanwhile built a deep network of supply chains and is experimenting with new forms of regional trade governance. Asia’s experience of open trade-led development offers lessons for other regions. Better coherence is also vital between Asia’s regional trade rules and global trade governance.
The recent IMF assessment of Europe’s financial sector found that much has been achieved to address the recent financial crisis in Europe, but vulnerabilities remain, and intensified efforts are needed across a wide front, one of which being bank balance sheet repair. This column looks at progress with bank restructuring in Europe.
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