Patrick Leblond is senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and holds the CN – Paul M. Tellier Chair on Business and Public Policy in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.
Pascale Massot is assistant professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa and a former senior policy adviser to the Canadian Minister of International Trade.
Ottawa provided welcomed news with its recent announcement of a fall meeting with multiple nations to discuss the future of the WTO.
It confirmed that the Trudeau government is not shifting its policy focus to trade promotion and bilateral free-trade agreements at the expense of promoting the system of global trade governance underpinned by the World Trade Organization.
The announcement from Canada’s new Minister of International Trade Diversification, Jim Carr, also shows this country is taking a leadership role in defending the WTO, which is facing its biggest existential challenges yet. A global, fair and open trade system supported by effective multilateral governance is fundamental to Canada’s economic interests.
What should be on the meeting’s agenda? Since the WTO’s inception in 1995, the world has changed but the WTO has not. The organization is lagging on three key issues.
First, emerging economies perceive a lack of fairness within the WTO. Second, there is a general feeling that the organization is not concerned enough with the broader public good, what the federal government has called the “progressive trade agenda.” Finally, the WTO’s rules need to be adapted to the 21st century’s economic reality, which is increasingly driven by data, algorithms and robots.
Why should Canada take on a leadership role? A world in flux, disrupted by extraordinary U.S. behaviour, offers opportunities for policy innovation for middle powers such as Canada. Canada must not only be at the table; it can be a leader, providing transformative ideas and rallying others toward workable solutions.
The meeting will include Australia, Brazil, Chile, the European Union, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland.
Who should be there?