Senate Finance Committee takes a look at World Trade Organization reform

It was 25 years ago when the World Trade Organization was created to facilitate and improve global trade relations. Now, there are efforts transpiring for its reform.

The Senate Finance Committee is taking a hard look at the World Trade Organization and what reforms are needed to make the governing body more effective.

“We need enforceable rules,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley. “It’s much better to resolve our trade disputes over legal briefs than through tariffs.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently said that the administration is not interested in fixing the appellate body, but the Council on Foreign Relations says that decision is a mistake.

“Just when the rest of the world was prepared to move, the United States effectively shut itself off from reform process,” said Jennifer Hillman, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Senior Fellow for Trade. “American refusal to suggest any way to fix the system or even what fixes recommended by others would be acceptable makes it less likely that the U.S. proposals in other areas will receive the attention that they deserve, given the lack of trust in American leadership at the WTO.”

Agricultural issues are frequently on the agenda at the WTO.

“The challenges of meeting future food needs will require a conservative effort from governments to improve functioning of food and agricultural markets,” said Joseph Glauber, an International Food Policy Research Institute Senior Fellow, “and the WTO can play an enormous role... perhaps most importantly continue to provide a forum to which members can bring and hopefully resolve trade disputes.”

Meaningful reform would require consensus among the 164 member countries but Sen. Grassley says that the United States should lead the charge for change.