Balancing competing interests:
The future role of the WTO
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, Thailand
The world economy has become more and more integrated and interdependent through increasing trade and capital mobility. Global trade and financial liberalization are believed to be the driving forces of world economic growth. The world's total output is now about 8 times what it was in 1948, but the value of world merchandise trade is 18 times as large. The problem is how to distribute the gains from increased global trade among countries in order to convince them of the benefits from further liberalization.
To many countries, greater trade flows have apparently brought gains, including greater per capita income and higher export earnings. However, obstacles and barriers to trade still exist, especially against the poorer countries. These must receive closer and greater attention in the global trade talks to ensure that open trade can concretely—and not just potentially or ideally—benefit all economies in the direction of free trade and efficient production.
If the future trade agenda of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is to be sustainable and is to command the support of the whole international community, then the WTO's members, both great and small, must be equal partners in its formulation and must be able collectively to claim ownership of it.
In particular, to sustain the primacy of the multilateral trading system for developing countries, which account for two-thirds of