Every policy realm has its jargon. Trade policy is no exception. The difference between a country’s weighted average bound tariff and its weighted average applied tariff is called “water in the tariff schedule”. It’s a topic of discussion in WTO negotiations over what the starting point for tariff cuts should be.
The bountiful show of cherry blossoms in Washington DC is a reliable harbinger of spring renewal. When they bloom in Japan, communities pause to appreciate their beauty and reflect on renewal. As WTO members start to design critical reforms to the global trading system, they should carry a renewed commitment to its future and a renewed vision to match that of its founders.
The concept of creating a generalized, non-reciprocal system of preferences for developing countries dates back to 1968. But enabling legitimate forms of discrimination has predictably had positive and negative consequences and there’s little economic data to demonstrate the programs have accrued significant benefits.
The art of bracketology is crucial in both March Madness and trade negotiations. Consensus is the goal, as trade negotiation texts move from “plenary” sessions with all 164 players on the court to a single agreed text, often with the help of chairperson who serves at turns as coach, referee, and cheerleader for the negotiations.
The current administration’s use of Section 232 to impose trade-restrictive measures on imports of steel and aluminum has become the source of increasing domestic discontent among steel-using industries, farmers who are the target of retaliatory tariffs, and Members of Congress who are reconsidering having delegated powers over trade to the President. It has also put WTO dispute settlement to an unwelcome test.
Government subsidies to fishing industries may be accelerating the depletion of fish stocks. Nearly 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks are at risk of being overfished. WTO members first started negotiating on fisheries subsidies in 2001 and have vowed to reach an agreement restraining these kinds of subsidies by the end of 2019.
Domestic competition policies aim to promote equitable opportunities to compete in the marketplace. They are oriented toward fostering the most efficient use of resources and increasing the incentives to innovate, both of which result in lower prices, better quality, and more choice for consumers. But domestic competition policies have limitations when it comes to cross-border transactions.For over two decades in international forums, governments have discussed whether and how to develop common approaches to national competition policies.
Chicken trade has been a sore spot in bilateral agricultural trade since 2004 when the United States and China banned each other’s poultry products after an outbreak of avian flu. If these long-simmering disputes are resolved in the context of ongoing U.S.-China trade talks, millions of Chinese could again see American chicken feet grace the dim sum buffet at Chinese New Year festivities.
When the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was first agreed by 23 original contracting parties in 1947, there were no guarantees that the rules would endure. Today, WTO membership stands at 164 countries — representing collectively, more than 98 percent of global trade. But for an institution to endure, it must remain relevant.
What’s important about these summits is not the prepared statements delivered at the main table, but the frank discussions and informal meetings that take place in the corridors and meeting rooms around the main conference.