New CEPR-RESPECT eBook 'Rebooting Multilateral Trade Cooperation: Perspectives From China And Europe'

Monday, July 12, 2021

Rising geopolitical and geoeconomic tensions among major trade powers are undermining the rules-based multilateral trade order. A new CEPR-RESPECT eBook, edited by Bernard Hoekman, Xinquan Tu, and Dong Wang, brings together leading experts in international trade policy from China and Europe who focus on key challenges confronting the multilateral trading system.

Pursuit of issue-specific negotiations on an open plurilateral basis offers prospects for revitalizing the WTO but does not remove the need for balance in the choice of issues put forward for negotiation and for systemic WTO reform. Joint leadership by China and the EU to establish a balanced work programme that spans both old and new issues of interest to all WTO members is a necessary condition to reboot the rules-based trade order.

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As multilateral trade negotiations have stagnated and tensions between major players have surged, the relevance of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has waned in recent years. The WTO is no longer fulfilling one of its primary functions – to provide an effective dispute mechanism for trade-related disputes. WTO members are increasingly pursuing bilateral and regional agreements, and on occasion resort to pursuing unilateral action outside of the WTO. These developments are undermining the rules-based multilateral trade order. 

To remain a key element of the global trade framework, the WTO must evolve to sufficiently meet the demands of its members in a rapidly changing world economy. In order to do so, substantial changes are needed to revitalise the institution and rebuild confidence in its capabilities - and meaningful cooperation between the major trade powers is essential for progress.  

You can also read a VoxEU column here