Chapter 1 of the Report assesses the implications for the multilateral trading regime of the changing political and economic landscape both within nations and between them. Two striking observations, expressed as affirmations, relevant to policymakers follow from our analysis of the context facing the multilateral trading regime in the early 21st century.
- Waning public support for the further opening of economies, which is particularly evident in many industrialised countries, now seriously threatens the conclusion of future trade agreements and the maintenance of orderly, rules-based international trade relations. National political leaders have often failed to explain adequately to the public what is at stake. Instead they have preferred silence, or worse, the politics of blame and responsibility avoidance. Governments must look beyond the electoral cycle and confront more directly the vested interests that benefit from protection and the inefficiency it breeds. Enhanced efficiency is, however, but one element in the equation of economic change. At the same time, governments must pay more serious attention to the distributional consequences of change.
- Sustaining the WTO is the collective responsibility of all its Members, in particular both the longstanding and the new poles of power and influence in the world economy. The parties concerned must reach an accommodation and act upon their common interests, as failure to do so risks paralysis at the WTO and the de facto disengagement of some Members. While such efforts are clearly in the common interest, it will be the smallest and weakest members of the international community that would suffer most from this failure.