The truth about trade agreements is that they’re almost never just about trade. The United States’ free trade agreement with South Korea is no exception.
New WTO members Afghanistan and Liberia are cheerleaders for other countries seeking WTO membership, including Iraq, Somalia and Timor-Leste. These countries are resolved to rebuild their post-conflict economies and believe that making commitments in the WTO will undergird necessary, but difficult, economic reforms at home.
WTO Ministerial Conferences are held every two years. They aren’t really strategy retreats, like the management team off-sites that companies hold, but maybe they should be.
It would be a costly error to take the WTO for granted. It is one of the indispensable international institutions that underwrite the functioning of the world economy. Yet, the institution and its rules need to keep pace with the evolution of world trade. Without change, the WTO is at risk of not remaining fully relevant.
In 1944, the global economy was in shambles. Forty-four nations gathered in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to discuss how to rebuild an economy devastated by protracted depression and two World Wars. From these discussions emerged a 1947 agreement on a lasting framework for post-war commercial relations whereby trade barriers were contained and then gradually reduced over time.
As a new resident in Geneva, I consulted with a number of WTO Ambassadors to the WTO as well as senior members of the secretariat. Several members offered a bottom line value to the WTO: the WTO system is providing essential stability without which business would have far less certainty. Without the WTO system in place, economic activity — both cross border and domestic – would be sharply reduced. Anyone who cares about either the level of economic activity for a country or for a company should pause and consider that truth.
As NAFTA negotiations get underway, the United States and Canada face a challenging mix of issues. Some represent longstanding disputes between the two countries. Others may be new priorities for the Trump Administration and untested in trade agreements. Still others, like commitments to facilitate digital trade, both sides are ready to agree. Here’s your cheat sheet.
As the President engages with Congress, the public, and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts to renegotiate NAFTA, he may find it useful to consider his own 11-step formula for success. Step two: “Protect the downside, and the upside will take care of itself.”
Every day, Facebook users share posts or “friend” someone, creating billions of new connections. Trade agreements don’t tell businesses whom to friend or like. But by removing obstacles to commercial transactions, trade agreements serve as a platform for American businesses of all sizes to better connect with buyers and sellers around the world.