Bernard Hoekman and Andreas Esche handing over the Report of the Expert Board to DG Roberto Azevêdo
Archiv Bertelsmann Stiftung

The initiative by the Bertelsmann Stiftung was launched in 2016 and welcomed by DG Azevêdo. The High Level Board of Experts is chaired by Professor Bernard Hoekman, Director of Global Economics at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute in Florence.

These issues are high on the agenda for the international community today – and so the ideas provided in this report are very timely. I welcome this important contribution to the debate.

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo

“Renewed dialogue is needed by WTO members to address long-standing and recent use of trade distorting policies as well as the future governance of trade”, added Professor Hoekman, the author of the report. “It is by keeping the channels for policy dialogue open that WTO members can best determine the way forward for the organization as an effective multilateral forum for trade co-operation and conflict resolution.”

The report was prepared by the High-Level Board of Experts independent of the WTO, and the report's conclusions and recommendations reflect the views of the experts.

The four avenues outlined by the report to revitalize the WTO as a multilateral forum for trade cooperation and conflict resolution are as follows:

  • Policy dialogue: WTO members need to establish a new work programme to address both long-standing and more recent use of trade-distorting policies that are systemically important;
  • support for open, non-discriminatory plurilateralism: members need to consider whether all members must participate in the launch of every new negotiation or initiative;
  • enhance the scope for the Secretariat to provide inputs: strengthening the ability of the Secretariat to support policy dialogue in WTO bodies and the work of WTO members would bolster the trading system;
  • review of WTO institutional performance: establishing a review mechanism that complements self-assessment by WTO bodies can present members with useful information on working practices, member engagement and outcomes.

 The report stresses that a precondition for revitalizing engagement at the WTO is ensuring the proposed work programme deal with matters of systemic import and does so without undercutting the ability of poor countries to pursue development policies.


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