• February 7th, 2022

Barcelona, February, 2022 – By Anwar Zibaoui, General Coordinator of ASCAME. Article translated from Spanish, originally posted in La Vanguardia.

A thriving global economy needs trade that drives growth, innovation and jobs. It is the only way to achieve a balanced and fair developed world. And even the strongest advocates of free trade know that the system needs mechanisms to foster cooperation, promote coordination and integration, avoid trade or military wars, and resolve disputes peacefully. It is clear that the system is now failing to meet its objectives. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) needs reform to improve its functioning and drive progress. 

The economic and trade order established since World War II is coming to an end. States now seek to secure their political and economic interests through tariffs and other protectionist measures. These new trade wars paralyse the system and threaten the effectiveness of international bodies such as the WTO, which was established to strengthen a multilateral trading system. An update of its principles and objectives is essential, in which all countries and actors show flexibility and build consensus to overcome its stagnation. We need a system that ensures the equitable distribution of the benefits of international trade, guaranteeing the development of the least favoured countries. 

To face the new challenges, a new impetus is needed to revitalise the multilateral system,

because in this new post-pandemic world, power is diffuse and international relations are becoming unpredictable. Protectionist policies and nationalist sentiments clash with the reality of globalisation, which cannot be stopped, but must be more inclusive, sustainable and should create jobs. A new WTO with clarity of vision, strategy and pragmatism is needed. Problems such as climate change and geopolitical security, epidemics, overpopulation, inequality, hunger, migration or unemployment require collaborative approaches that can only be solved on a global scale. But no consensus emerges. These problems are interconnected and cannot be solved through stopgap solutions. 

And yet, never in recent history have such fundamental changes been experienced. To meet these new challenges, a new impetus is needed to revitalise the multilateral system. A strengthened WTO backed by inclusive rules that promote trade, business development and investment can play an important role in the recovery of the global economy. The nature of the problems we face today is such that no single country can tackle them alone. In an interconnected world, developments in one country or region can have a significant impact on all the others. There is no better trade than right action. Trade is not a weapon, but an instrument of peace and prosperity.