WTO DDG Ellard: Multilateralism is the solution to challenges of global commons, unilateralism

Deputy Director-General Angela Ellard delivered a lecture to the US National War College on 7 February in which she discussed economic multilateralism as a potent instrument of economic power. She addressed the historical context and basic principles of the WTO as well as the modern challenges facing the organization and the multilateral trading system.

Angela Ellard

In addressing the role of economic multilateralism, DDG Ellard underlined the role of international organizations in delivering global public goods, addressing challenges of the global commons, and providing a more enduring, equitable and cooperative basis for democratic global governance than unilateral action.

DDG Ellard elaborated on the challenges the system faces today, emphasizing the need for engagement by all WTO members to improve the organization and make it more relevant.

“While the WTO isn’t perfect, there is no alternative to it,” she said, stressing that it is worth reforming the WTO to make it better fit to meet the challenges of the times.

In this regard, DDG Ellard highlighted that the WTO, which is made up of 164 members and covers 98% of global trade, is the only multilateral organization dealing with international trade. Despite the proliferation of free trade agreements, more than 75% of global trade is conducted under WTO rules, on a most favoured nation basis, she added. “There is great value to the WTO even if it can’t solve every problem,” she concluded.

The National War College educates future leaders of the US Armed Forces, Department of State and other civilian agencies for high-level policy, command and staff responsibilities by conducting a senior-level course of study in national security strategy.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) deals with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.