Cultural diversity

Publications and Studies

The Future of the WTO: Addressing institutional challenges in the new millennium

WTO's Consultative Board - Report to the Director-General, April 2005 – 2005/04

From 20 to 22 April 2005, the World Trade Organization (WTO) hosted its annual public symposium at the WTO's headquarters in Geneva (Swiss) on the theme: “WTO After 10 Years: Global Problems and Multilateral Solutions”. This year's event coincided with the 10th Anniversary of the WTO. Participants from governments, parliaments, civil society, the business sector, academia and the media were invited to analyse and reflect upon these past ten years and discuss the challenges the organization faces into the future. On this occasion, WTO Director-General Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi declared: « The objective of the public symposium in 2005, a year that marks the 10th Anniversary of the WTO, is to have a stimulating public debate on where we are and what is expected from the WTO and its Member governments. There have been important achievements in the multilateral trading system over the last decade but a number of challenges remain ahead of us, including completion of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations, which require active input and support from all of our stakeholders. I therefore hope that an honest and thorough assessment of our first ten years and our hopes for the future, will contribute to building political support for the DDA and the multilateral trading system. I invite participants at the public symposium to share with us their thoughts and ideas on future directions ».

The 2005 symposium featured dedicated high-level work sessions on the WTO's economic, legal and institutional functions, as well as work sessions on key subjects being negotiated in the Doha Round. The report of the Director-General's Consultative Board “The Future of the WTO — Addressing institutional challenges in the new millennium” served as an interesting basis for discussion. Other topics included trade and development, non-agricultural market access and trade and environment. In the main conclusions of the report, the Advisory Council expressed serious apprehensions about “the proliferation of preferential trade agreements. [We] are not convinced by the economic arguments made in their favor and are particularly concerned that preferential treatment becomes a reward for governments pursuing objectives that have nothing to do with trade. In the Council’s view, governments must show restraint or risk further compromising the multilateral trading system.

In terms of cooperation with other intergovernmental organizations, the Council stressed that “the drafting and interpretation of WTO rules concerns WTO members only, and outside interference must be avoided. The WTO is not—and should not—be part of the UN system. It is a sui generis organization, and observer status should only be granted on the basis of a potential contribution to WTO’s role as a trade negotiations forum.”

As was the case during previous symposia, much time was set aside for governments, civil society and parliamentarians to organize their own events during the symposium. To this effect, The International Network for Cultural Diversity (INCD) organized on April 20 a seminar on the topic : Trade in Cultural Goods and Services: Assessing the Compatibility between WTO trade rules and UNESCO's cultural diversity convention. [05-13]