16 May 2014

Geneva symposium considers post-Bali perspectives

The future of the multilateral trading system following the WTO Bali Ministerial Conference was the subject of a successful symposium held on 9 May in Geneva.

Co-hosted by the Graduate Institute’s Centre for Trade and Economic Integration and the World Trade Institute (WTI), the event was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Belgium and the Permanent Mission of the European Union to the WTO.

University of Bern PhD candidate, Mathias Kende, who writes on the Trade Policy Review Mechanism and currently works with the Belgian Permanent Mission in Geneva, organised the symposium in the framework of the WTI Doctoral Programme Conference Series that was launched in 2013.

The event was unique in considering the Bali Conference outcome from both an academic and a diplomatic perspective. It was a day, as Ambassador Bertrand de Crombrugghe of the Belgian Mission to the WTO remarked in his opening comments, for diplomats and academics to join hands.

Professor Thomas Cottier of the WTI said in his introductory remarks that the business of academics is facts and ideas. Now was a good moment for diplomacy to consider the views of academics who deal with theory. “There is a saying that there is nothing more practical than theory,” he said.

"The event was a real success, not only for its timeliness in considering the future of the multilateral trading system post-Bali, but also for bringing together leading academics and practitioners on important trade questions,” said Tomas Baert of the EU Mission to the WTO. “The symposium filled a gap and we should consider further thought-provoking interactions of this kind in the future."

“If diplomacy is the art of the possible - this seminar has greatly enhanced our understanding of what is currently doable at the WTO,” commented organiser Mathias Kende.

The symposium consisted of four sessions: Delivering on Doha: is Bali the new beginning?; Multilateralism at multiple speeds: what place for plurilaterals in the global trading system?; The WTO in the green era: what trade response to urgent environmental problems?, and The WTO in the digital era: trade meets technology, but do trade rules too?

Professor Thomas Cottier participated in the third session. Professor Mira Burri, also of the WTI, presented in the fourth session.

A record of the proceedings will be published in report form.