Committee 1: Improving the WTO’s Negotiating Function

To provide the Applicants with the best possible and most relevant experience, the Model WTO has decided this year’s topic to be the Reform of the WTO as this topic has become more relevant in recent months.

Committee 1 

Improving the WTO’s Negotiating Function

One of the central functions of the WTO are its negotiating practices. A main pillar of these negotiations is the consensus requirement, i.e. all members must be in favour of an agreement for it to be put in place. However, consensus is not only required for multilateral trade negotiations, but also for decisions like agenda-setting, proposals to have discussions on certain topics or to clarify issues, and suggestions to invite independent experts to give input on certain matters. As this leads to time inefficiency, it has been suggested to relax the consensus requirement for certain decisions.

Similarly, the single undertaking approach has been criticised. This approach stipulates that “nothing is decided until everything is decided”. For instance, in a negotiation round on multiple topics like the Doha Round, the agreement can only be concluded once every matter of discussion has been decided on. This approach allows for cross-sectoral trade-offs, which reduces the chance of veto. However, it naturally leads to inefficiency in negotiations.

In addition to relaxing these two approaches, it has been suggested to put new mechanisms in place to aid negotiations. For example, the agenda-setting process could be revised, e.g. by mandating a working group to establish agendas based on a factual analysis of current concerns and negative externalities. Also, the role of the secretariat could be enhanced, for instance by allowing it to make proposals in negotiations as a neutral advisor.

With the aim to enhance the effectiveness of WTO negotiations, the committee on Improving the WTO’s Negotiating Functions will thus address the main concerns regarding negotiating practices and the relevant reform suggestions.

Author of the Committees 2019:
Cara Stromeyer (cara.stromeyer@model-wto.org)
Model WTO Head of Simulation Design