Public Lecture “The Importance of the WTO System: Present and Emerging” Dr. Harsha Vardhan Singh


To deliberate on the importance of the WTO system in advancing the goal of addressing the main present and emerging global issues

Background & Context

As the multilateral body responsible for stabilising and adding discipline to policy response together with liberalisation of international trade to provide increasing economic opportunities to improve the livelihoods of millions of people around the world, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has risen as the most influential amongst the inter-governmental institutions that are at the helm of global economic governance. Recognition of trade as a significant engine of economic growth and development has spurred the expansion of the WTO’s membership, which currently has 153 members covering 97 per cent of world trade.

A crucial role of the WTO is to establish a framework to enforce trade disciplines that promote its membership to honour their commitments. History is ridden with examples of misguided protectionist policies by nation states in times of economic crisis, leading to conflicts and even devastating wars. The ability of the WTO’s rule-based system to prevent such a tendency of backtracking to protectionism was put to test during the recent economic crisis. The WTO system prevailed and also firmly asserted its worth in respect of stability and predictability. The value of the WTO system is evident also from the long line up of nations that are waiting to become its members.

Strict adherence to consensus-based decision-making and an advanced dispute settlement system has equipped the WTO to treat its Members similarly, while accommodating the need for differential treatment of Members with diverse levels of development. This has resulted in the empowerment of poorer and weaker nations, catapulting them into the mainstream of global economy.

At present, the WTO’s relevance is recognised more than ever before, and the Organisation is an important part of global institutions relevant for the nations trying to address major problems faced by our world. The impact of the WTO is far wider than commonly understood. Today it appears to be an indicator of both the types of issues that will become crucial for us and the likely mechanisms that would be relevant for dealing with these issues.


For more information, please contact:
Bipul Chatterjee, Deputy Executive Director, CUTS; +91(0)9829285921;

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