From USA-ITA OFF THE CUFF for February 15, 2013
On February 11th, USA-ITA attended an event on the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO) at the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. The event featured a keynote by Anabel González, Foreign Minister of Costa Rica and the leading candidate to succeed Pascal Lamy as Director-General of the WTO.
The event started with remarks from González, who has served as the lead negotiator on Costa Rican trade and investment issues since May 2010 and successfully led Costa Rica into the global economy. She also served as Director of the Agriculture and Commodities Division of the WTO, and is in the lead to serve as the next Director-General of the WTO. González outlined her views on trade more generally, which she says is key to fostering growth and economic development around the world, especially in less-developed nations. She sees trade liberalization as the means, not the end, to prosperity, productivity, and innovation.
González’s vision for the WTO is two-fold: to open new markets, and to govern rules for trade among its members. While she notes that progress in Doha has been “slow,” she has “new, cautious optimism” about opportunities to reinvigorate the WTO as a negotiating forum based on progress seen in Geneva. But, to do this, she says, no topic should be taboo for the WTO to discuss—including trade, investment, climate change, and the importance of global value chains, to name a few. Ultimately, though, because the WTO is a member-driven organization, she believes its role should be guided by its members, and if she becomes the Director-General, she would work closely with the Secretariat and members.
Following her remarks, CSIS Senior Adviser Scott Miller led a panel discussion with Linda Menghetti Dempsey, Vice President of International Economic Affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, and John Murphy, Vice President of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. When asked about the hope for agreements such as an international services agreement or customs and trade facilitation talks, González again expressed that she sees strong potential in the coming years. She also sees a role for preferential trade agreements in the global system, but believes that the WTO should remain the stronghold to monitor these agreements between members, as well as promote convergence and let members know about other agreements.
Finally, González discussed Costa Rica’s experience with economic growth, noting that trade was critical. All countries, but developing countries in particular, should note that being open to international trade and foreign investment and taking a pragmatic approach to trade policy can lead to economic growth and prosperity. And these developing countries can benefit most from the WTO and its dispute settlement program, which delivers rulings based on the case merits and not the size of the members.
You can view the entire discussion on the CSIS website.