A Fading Institution

When the World Trade Organization (WTO) was founded, expectations of this new forum were high. But its 25-year history has not lived up to these great expectations. This is shown by an analysis of the media coverage on the occasion of the founding anniversary of the WTO. 

Since the mid-2000s, the intensity of public interest in the World Trade Organization (WTO) has declined considerably. Multilateral approaches have gradually disappeared from trade policy discourses. The debate is increasingly dominated by national perspectives. However, U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies have shifted focus back toward the WTO. The study was conducted by the Dortmund Center for databased Media Analysis (DoCMA) of the TU Dortmund University on behalf of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

The study is part of a series of publications aimed at contributing to a better understanding and strengthening of the multilateral global trading system. We published a comprehensive report in 2018 with reform proposals for the WTO that were based on the deliberations of our High-level Expert Panel on the Future of Global Trade Governance. On the heels of this report, we are publishing a series of policy-oriented publications in 2019 and 2020 in which we build on specific concepts presented in the report and introduce new ideas. For more information, please visit our blog.

Our study on the wealth effects of the WTO on the gross domestic product of their member states shows the economic gains from the institutionalized multilateral trading system. In member states strongly profiting from multilateral trade, such as the United States and Germany, policymakers and interest groups should increase their activities to raise awareness of the importance of the WTO and to spur public debate about its future course.

For more information on the WTO, you can also check out the project “Monitoring Democracy”, which is concerned with the legitimacy of international organizations.