WITA Webinar: Trade Negotiations and the WTO in the Age of COVID




On Thursday, May 28, WITA co-hosted a webinar with the Asia Society Policy Institute on WTO and what the organization needs to do to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. 

WITA Webinar Featuring: 

Mark Linscott, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council/Senior Advisor, The Asia Group and former Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for WTO and Multilateral Affairs

Terence Stewart, former Managing Partner, Law Offices of Stewart and Stewart, and author of the blog, Current Thoughts on Trade

Nigel Cory, Associate Director, Trade Policy, Information Technology, and Innovation Foundation

Moderator: Wendy Cutler, Vice President, and Managing Director, Washington D.C. office of the Asia Society Policy Institute – Read Wendy Cutler and Nigel Cory’s recent article: Time For An Upgrade: Moving WTO Negotiations Into The Digital World

Webinar Summary:

This webinar discussed the WTO’s process and timeline for finding Roberto Azevedo’s successor as Deputy General, as well as the WTO’s need to go digital. Mark Linscott provided insight on what the selection process looked like back in 2012 when Azevedo was chosen. Linscott also conveyed that last time there was a geographic array of individuals and no geographical red lines in terms of the candidates. Additionally, Linscott noted that Azevedo’s ability to facilitate and not his desire to promote a specific agenda is what ultimately led to his selection.

Terry Stewart offered his thoughts on what the U.S. is looking for in the next Deputy General, stating they are likely looking for a Deputy General that has the capability to find a path forward in what seems to be impassable waters rather than a candidate from a specific geographical location. Stewart also suspects that the U.S. will not put anyone forward, but will be working behind the scenes to encourage certain countries to put forth a candidate.

Nigel Cory expressed that the WTO’s lack of digital readiness has caused some deals nearing the finishing line, such as fishery subsidies, to be delayed. Cory noted that some of this lack of digital readiness is due to some countries reluctance to allow digital negotiations. Wendy Cutler stated that while the finalizing of negotiations necessitates in person interactions, a lot of the early talks can be done digitally.

The webinar concluded with a Q & A session where the panelists responded to questions about why the WTO selection process and deputy general matters, WTO reform, and what it would take for the WTO to move towards digital negotiations.