There is renewed focus of late on the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its rules for international trade. Lengthy preparation for the organization’s 11th Ministerial Conference in December 2017 has led to calls from the business world to expand and update WTO rules.
Businesses are turning to the WTO as growth in global trade of goods and services slowed to between 1.9 and 2.5 percent in 2016, which the World Bank characterized as “the lowest growth in trade volumes since the Great Recession of 2008–20091 .” At the same time, focus has shifted away from regional trade negotiations.
That low growth in global trade appears to be structural as well as cyclical. According to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), while slow global economic growth has certainly contributed to the slowdown in international trade growth, national policies are also contributing. “Governments all across the world have become more innovative in protecting domestic business against competition from abroad,” said the ICC, citing a new trend in local content requirements as one barrier of growing concern. “What is needed now is new liberalization that raises the underlying potential for growth,” the ICC says in its proposed agenda for the WTO’s upcoming Ministerial Conference.