The WTO at a Crossroad

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is at a crossroad. Each of WTO’s three main functions—monitoring and transparency, negotiation, and dispute settlement—is under stress. There is no single source for that stress. Some pressure flows from individual members, and other pressure flows from members’ inability to reach consensus on long-standing irritants. Pressure has also come from the rise of China and its state-driven economy, the rapid pace of technological change and its impact on the global economy, persistent economic inequality, and a recent tilt towards nationalism in the recent decade in countries that have otherwise consistently advocated for free trade. How will this essential institution navigate these challenges? In its latest report, the CSIS Scholl Chair in International Business provides a roadmap of three possible future scenarios for the WTO—continuation of status quo gridlock, U.S. withdrawal from the WTO, and successful reform—and examines what happens to the global trading order in each.

In addition to the report, the Scholl Chair has assembled two resources to chart the future of the WTO: a database to track WTO reform proposals and a series of flowcharts that map future scenarios for the WTO

This report is made possible by the generous support of HP Inc. 

Madeleine Waddoups

Catherine Tassin de Montaigu

Jack Caporal