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Day 52 – Q 5.Are we witnessing the decline of WTO in an era of heightened regional cooperation and bilateral alliances? Critically examine.

5. Are we witnessing the decline of WTO in an era of heightened regional cooperation and bilateral alliances? Critically examine. 

क्या हम क्षेत्रीय सहयोग और द्विपक्षीय गठजोड़ के एक युग में डब्ल्यूटीओ की गिरावट को देख रहे हैं? समालोचनात्मक जांच करें।


The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the principal forum for setting the rules of international trade. In its two decades, it has helped reduce barriers to trade in both goods and services and created a dispute resolution system that supporters say has reduced the threat of trade wars. However, the institution is under considerable pressure. Negotiations on a comprehensive development agenda have foundered on disagreements over agricultural subsidies and intellectual property rights, while members have increasingly turned to separate bilateral and regional free trade agreements to advance their trade interests.

Present scenario of trade agreements:

Whether they are bilateral trade pacts, large customs unions, or cross-continental trade agreements, all WTO members as of June 2016 have some sort of regional trade agreement in force. These agreements have increased in number as well as complexity since the early 1990s. One of the most frequently asked a question is whether these regional groups help or hinder the WTO’s multilateral trading system. WTO members, working in various committees, work to address such concerns.

Are we witnessing the decline of WTO?

  • Regional trade agreements (RTAs), in the WTO as reciprocal preferential trade agreements between two or more partners, have allowed countries to negotiate rules and commitments that go beyond what was possible multilaterally.
  • In turn, some of these rules have paved the way for agreement in the WTO. Services, intellectual property, environmental standards, investment and competition policies are all issues that were raised in regional negotiations and later developed into agreements or topics of discussion in the WTO.
  • New regime of USA is deeply sceptical of multilateralism, preferring to deal with trading partners on a bilateral basis. New regime withdrew from the TPP immediately upon taking office, and the remaining members completed the deal without the United States.
  • Even as U.S. allies advanced FTAs without USA, Trump began pursuing unilateral measures to confront China and other countries on trade, raising serious doubts about the future of the WTO.

Criticism on WTO:

Criticism range from farmers and labour groups that accuse the WTO of focusing too narrowly on corporate interests to environmentalists who worry about deregulation to U.S. policymakers who allege that the institution has failed to handle Chinese abuses.

  • Intellectual property rights: The WTO’s intellectual property agreement, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), draws criticism from experts who have argued that WTO rules on drug patents have limited access to medicines in poorer countries.
  • Sovereignty and regulation: Other critics say WTO rules overrule national sovereignty, and in doing so erode environmental and labor protections.
  • Import competition: Some economists allege that by promoting imports and encouraging firms to move their operations abroad, WTO-led tariff reductions hurt U.S. jobs and wages.
  • Response to China: Trump has been a vociferous critic of Chinese state-led development policy, arguing that while the United States has adhered to global trade rules, other countries primarily China have gained an advantage by ignoring them.


Most of the developed countries are losing their interest on multilateralism in trade, which makes WTO weak. India should be more actively engaged to arrest the slide and then make the WTO a more equitable organisation. As India and other developing nations will everything to lose and nothing to gain first from hallowing out and then using selective agreements through WTO.

Best Answer: invincible

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