4,118 research outputs found

    Reforming WTO Conflict Management Why and How to Improve the Use of “Specific Trade Concerns”. Bertelsmann Working Paper 24/02/2020

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    The World Trade Organization (WTO) needs reform to strengthen its vital role in mitigating commercial conflict, notably its procedures for discussing trade concerns. As Committees do not need permission to improve their own procedures this might be a logical starting point, but General Council guidance and a central decision on ad-ditional funding can help Officials need to keep each other informed about implementation of WTO rules, and they do in thousands of so-called notifications through the WTO every year. Knowing what is going on is the first step in managing conflict. Officials also need to be able to talk to each other about implementation, which they do in dozens of committee meetings every year. In those meetings they often raise “specific trade concerns” (STCs) on behalf of their firms. Most often those concerns about laws, regulations, or practices are addressed by their trading partners. A relative handful cannot be resolved this way and are raised as formal disputes. The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) committees are a bench-mark showing the place of STCs in the great pyramid of the WTO legal order. I draw three implications from the pyramid in SPS and TBT: 1. Only a small fraction of the huge number of SPS and TBT notifications ever become a source of con-flict leading to a dispute. From 1995 until early 2019, there were 34,000 TBT notifications, 580 STCs and only 6 disputes with Appellate Body reports. 2. One reason is that discussion of STCs can mitigate some sources of friction, sometimes by modifica-tion or withdrawal of a measure. 3. Dispute settlement is at the tip of the pyramid. There are probably many more enquiry point com-ments than STCs, and there are certainly many more STCs than disputes. The committees do not settle formal disputes, but they have demonstrably served to diffuse trade conflict in their respective areas

    Informal Learning and WTO Renewal Using Thematic Sessions to Create More Opportunities for Dialogue. Bertelsmann Working Paper 24/02/2020

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    WTO has held over 100 “thematic sessions” in the past three years. Thematic sessions are a broad class of meetings that are sponsored by or associated with a WTO body in some way, but that are not part of its formal meetings. The appendix contains a database of all thematic sessions from the beginning of 2017 until the end of 2019. Thematic sessions bring dynamism to WTO by allowing committees to consider what works well under an agree-ment, including sharing experiences with implementation, what is not working, and what is next on the agenda. We found variation in how meetings are organized, which is related to the type of session, and we found variation in how themes are chosen, participation (who speaks), the degree of transparency, and funding. Comprehensive improvement is needed: some committees never hold thematic sessions, participation by capital-based officials from developing countries is uneven, and too few sessions have a forward-looking agenda. En-hanced use of thematic sessions can contribute to strengthening the pipeline between Geneva and capitals, and to better understanding in Geneva of what is happening on the ground. Recommendations for the WTO General Council to generalize best practices as part of the WTO reform process include: Addressing substantive gaps in the themes addressed, notably with respect to subsidies, the systemic impact of RTAs, and implications of dispute settlement reports for a committee’s work Creating a central budget to fund increased capital-based participation More support for technology to allow virtual meetings Forward planning on topics and dates as an element of the Annual Report submitted by every WTO body

    Is World Trade Organization Information Good Enough? How a Systematic Reflection by Members on Transparency Could Promote Institutional learning. Bertelsmann Stiftung GED Focus Paper

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    The World Trade Organization (WTO) has three primary tasks: to negotiate new rules, monitor implementation, and settle any disputes that arise. It is not fulfilling any of these tasks very well at the moment. Should Members just muddle along, hoping for the best, or seek external advice on how to change the WTO operating system? I suggest a third possibility: should Members encourage institutional learning? It helps that at least some Members know that they have a problem. In July 2017, a communication to the Gen-eral Council from a group of 47 developing and developed Members said, first, that the political will to find compromises and to forge consensus is lacking (WTO, 2017c). WTO Members have failed for years to agree that the Doha Round is dead so a new negotiation framework cannot be created. The second observation from the group informally known as the Friends of the System is that compliance with notification obligations is often unsatisfactory, thereby undermining the WTO’s monitoring function because information is late, incomplete or of low quality. These two self-criticisms, about political will to find consensus, and insufficient provision of infor-mation, are related: both are a symptom, not a cause; both signify the lack of a shared understanding of what WTO is for. Some of the explanations for the WTO’s difficulties lie outside the organization in a general malaise of multilater-alism (Wolfe, 2015b; Wolfe, 2017b), now exacerbated by an Administration in Washington that in putting America First sees a competitor, not a partner, in China, but continuing as before and hoping for a better outcome would be foolish. Muddling through is no solution, and outsiders cannot help. Could a systematic discussion of transpar-ency help Members to recover a shared sense of collective purpose

    New Groups in the WTO Agricultural Trade Negotiations: Power, Learning and Institutional Design

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    For two decades agriculture has been the lynchpin of every meeting of the world's trade ministers. The Hong Kong ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 2005 was no different. Once again, a multilateral trade round is blocked by failure to agree on reform of farm trade, a traditional sector representing less than 10% of world merchandise trade. But the current round differs from earlier rounds: a number of new political coalitions have formed, unformed and reformed, and the role of Canada seems obscure. The usual approaches to explaining international economic outcomes consider political economy factors. In this paper I ask if institutional factors are part of the problem, or the solution.International Relations/Trade,

    Harvesting Public Policy? Private Influence on Agricultural Trade Policy in Canada

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    Agricultural and Food Policy, International Relations/Trade,

    Endogenous Learning and Consensual Understanding in Multilateral Negotiations: Arguing and Bargaining in the WTO

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    People at home and trade negotiators in Geneva cannot bargain what they do not understand, and what they bargain must be based on consensual understanding among the relevant actors, whether or not they agree on what to do about it. Consensual understanding is endogenous, arising in an argumentative process of learning structured by constitutive principles of a regime. In a departure from both rationalist and constructivist approaches to negotiation analysis in political science, my goal in this paper is to try to advance analysis of these questions by exploring the contribution that deliberation or arguing makes to learning. My proposition is that something happens at the multilateral negotiation table in addition to bargaining, something that alters either the understanding of themselves and their interests that participants brought to the table, or how they understand the nature of social reality in a domain. Such learning would be endogenous to the negotiations, because it happens through interaction. This approach requires distinguishing simple learning (acquisition of new information about the context, or the preferences of others) from complex learning (new understanding of cause/effect relations in a domain), which also requires distinguishing consensual understanding from a mutual adjustment of positions. I then specify how this model might be susceptible to empirical investigation. I show how individual issues within a negotiation can be treated as cases susceptible to comparative analysis at a moment in time. I explore this possibility in a comparison of the contribution of consensual understanding to the outcome of negotiation of selected issues in the current Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations in the World Trade Organization. I then infer the results of arguing from the textual deposits left by negotiations in order to assess the presence or absence of consensual understanding. Finally, I attempt to correlate consensual understanding with the negotiation status of the issues as of the end of the failed Doha Round ministerial of July 2008.WTO, Bargaining, Learning, Agricultural and Food Policy, International Development, International Relations/Trade,

    The Inflation Technique for Causal Inference with Latent Variables

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    The problem of causal inference is to determine if a given probability distribution on observed variables is compatible with some causal structure. The difficult case is when the causal structure includes latent variables. We here introduce the inflation technique\textit{inflation technique} for tackling this problem. An inflation of a causal structure is a new causal structure that can contain multiple copies of each of the original variables, but where the ancestry of each copy mirrors that of the original. To every distribution of the observed variables that is compatible with the original causal structure, we assign a family of marginal distributions on certain subsets of the copies that are compatible with the inflated causal structure. It follows that compatibility constraints for the inflation can be translated into compatibility constraints for the original causal structure. Even if the constraints at the level of inflation are weak, such as observable statistical independences implied by disjoint causal ancestry, the translated constraints can be strong. We apply this method to derive new inequalities whose violation by a distribution witnesses that distribution's incompatibility with the causal structure (of which Bell inequalities and Pearl's instrumental inequality are prominent examples). We describe an algorithm for deriving all such inequalities for the original causal structure that follow from ancestral independences in the inflation. For three observed binary variables with pairwise common causes, it yields inequalities that are stronger in at least some aspects than those obtainable by existing methods. We also describe an algorithm that derives a weaker set of inequalities but is more efficient. Finally, we discuss which inflations are such that the inequalities one obtains from them remain valid even for quantum (and post-quantum) generalizations of the notion of a causal model.Comment: Minor final corrections, updated to match the published version as closely as possibl
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