Last week, as the Trump administration pretended everything was now fine with trade policy, there was an emergency gathering in Ottawa to try to rescue the global trading system. Neither the United States nor China were invited.
Though the meeting was hosted by the Canadians, it had nothing to do with NAFTA, or the newly-agreed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), though those have been the centerpiece of the Trump administration’s trade policy so far. Instead, this was about the World Trade Organization (WTO), which the Trump administration has treated with a combination of neglect and outright disdain.
Thus, one question about the WTO is why anyone should care? A first reason is that it is more important than regional liberalization such as NAFTA. This is where the big global trade moves have traditionally taken place – the room where it happens, as it were. For example, there is a common belief that NAFTA, originally concluded in 1993, marked the moment when the United States opened its markets to Mexico. In fact, the United States had roughly 3 percent average tariffs on Mexico before NAFTA was signed; those tariffs were locked in when Mexico joined the GATT in 1986, the predecessor organization of the WTO. NAFTA largely marked the moment when Mexico reciprocated.Read more here