Reinvigorating Trade and Inclusive Growth



Staff | International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, The World Bank

Reinvigorating Trade and Inclusive Growth

Trade integration can play a much larger role in boosting shared prosperity. The current focus on trade tensions threatens to obscure the great untapped benefits possible from further trade reform. The opportunities provided by information technology and other fundamental changes in the global economy are yet to be reflected in modern areas of trade policy, such as services and electronic commerce. Greater openness in these areas would promote competition, lift productivity, and raise living standards. In many other areas, such as the rural economy, smaller enterprises, and women’s economic empowerment, trade-related reforms are important particularly to foster more inclusive growth.

Harnessing flexible approaches to WTO negotiations may be the key to reinvigorating global trade reform. Despite the benefits at stake—and with important exceptions such as the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement—trade reform has lagged since the early 2000s. For much of this period, governments focused their efforts in the WTO on a single negotiating approach. Now, as groups of WTO members pursue joint initiatives in several areas, attention is turning to how other negotiating approaches—including some used effectively in the past—can be leveraged so that trade once again plays its full role in driving increased global economic prosperity.

Building greater, more durable openness—this paper’s focus—should be part of a broader effort to strengthen and reinvest in the global trading system. The system of global trade rules that has nurtured unprecedented economic growth across multiple generations faces tensions. Though only recently brought to the fore, those tensions are rooted in issues that have been left unresolved for too long. Governments need to promptly address outstanding questions involving, for example, the WTO dispute system and the reach of subsidy disciplines. Cooperative action to secure greater openness—an imperative in its own right—could also help to resolve these issues.


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To read the original paper published by the International Monetary Fund please click here.