Future of the WTO may depend on who wins the election in November

The future of the World Trade Organization could depend on who wins the November presidential election.

The World Trade Organization was designed to govern global trade, but in recent years, the system has failed.

“What we are facing in the WTO is a kind of stasis, it’s not serving its members well, its leading them to want to negotiate deals outside of the institution, or to take measures outside to the WTO,” according to Andrea Durkin, a former U.S. Trade Negotiator. “It also means that the trade rules are falling to far behind the modern global economy, in areas like services and digital....The rules were negotiated before China’s entry.”

Polling shows that 36 percent of Americans support leaving the WTO, another 36 percent are indifferent and 28 percent support the organization.

Support grows when people have a better understanding.

“I think what is shows is there isn’t necessarily a groundswell or strong movement to leave the WTO, mostly people are unsure of what it does, unsure of the value proposition,” Durkin said.

President Donald Trump has treated to leave the WTO, and if reelected, he would likely continue working on trade negotiations without the organization.

“I think what you would see is a continuation of and possibly additional unilateral tariffs,” Jennifer Hillman, Council of Foreign Relations senior fellow, states. “When I say unilateral tariffs... that means they are illegal under the WTO’s rules.”

She says that Trump is likely to continue seeking bilateral trade deals and blocking the WTO, compared to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who appears to favor reform.

The WTO is currently leaderless, with members unable to agree to an interim Director General. Eight candidates are in the running of the position.

The group will be narrowed down to two candidates by November 7th, but the timeline is flexible and could change based on the results of the U.S. presidential election.