Forum 2012 (September 24-26, WTO Headquarters, Geneve, Switzerland)
WTO, three words, World Trade Organisation. But what is it really about?
My understanding of the WTO and its functions grew significantly during the Public Forum. In reality, it is an
international organization, that, such as the others, is highly dependent on the role of its Members. So, in
a nutshell, it is about protecting the strategic economic interests of the Member States in a multilateral
context: of course this is also related to their leverage power. Contrary to common wisdom, it is not
anymore an organization exclusively driven from Washington, as other Members gain negotiation weight
and economic power. Having said this, the composition of its Members is still unbalanced towards America
and Europe, and this is adding to a progressive lost of relevance of the organization significance, as it loses
adherence to the global economic reality on the ground.
Furthermore, decisions are taken by consensus, so that issues and policies have to be discussed and
negotiated upon until all of the Members agree on a specific line of conduct. The WTO has historically
been the major architect of global political economy’s trends and provided the framework for international
agreements. At present, its major role is to ensure that Members have a framework for truly multilateral
discussions, and, in this respect, my personal opinion would be that, if the WTO wants to survive to future
developments, it has to enhance its role in this sense.
The central theme of the Forum was precisely “Is Multilateralism in crisis?” whereby the survival of multilateral organizations was also called into question. What were the main answers to this question and what the proposals for the future?
Well, the main answers about the future of multilateralism were 1)Pessimistic, 2)Carefully optimistic. The
one that really impressed the audience was Pascal Lamy’s one (ndr. Director-General of the World Trade
Organization) that admitted to be pessimistic about the future of WTO and multilateralism. It was widely
acknowledged in every room that the WTO must reform to keep pace with the times ahead and counter
this wave of individualism amongst nations’ economic policies and bi-lateral agreements that by-pass the
role of the WTO, because they are seen as much more dynamic and easy to be concluded. The Doha Round
and its deadlock has impacted greatly on the credibility of the organization: some voices in the room said it
was born dead, as it proposed to tackle issues on which the Members were unable to make progresses in
other instances, especially agricultural subsidies. This latter is indeed a major reason of strains among the
Members, especially on the LDCs (ndr. Least Developed Countries) side against the Developed Countries.
The WTO of the future has the imperative to find an easier structure, where the decision-making process
speeds significantly up. The proposals have been various: to digitalize more its functions, to ease accession
procedures changing the voting system to make it more operational, to shift towards a system of inter-
This last proposal was the one that interested me the most, and the one which I think, should be further
explored. It is true indeed that regional blocs are profoundly immature (even the ones that should be
integrated the most as the EU), but, in my opinion, it is also true that promoting advantageous conditions
for regional actors would boost their strengthening thus giving a new mission as well as a new form to
multilateralism. I am aware of the fact than there are other overlapping international grouping, such as the
BRICS, and it is a common view that those countries have more interests in common that the respective
neighbours, anyways, I would argue that this is already shifting as, for example, Mexico and Argentina keep
on growing and aligning their positions to the Brazilian one. But this issue is definitely controversial and
open to a constructive and interesting debate.
What is the best discussion panel you have attend?
All the Panels were very interesting and hosting the most influent personalities in the world’s economy
(CEOs such as MR Staheyeff from eBay or Mr Bhatia from General Electric, Economists from the World
Bank and of course Chairmen from UNCTAD, OECD, World Economic Forum and key politicians such as
the UAE Foreign Trade Minister Mrs. Al-Qasimi). Having the chance to hear first-hand comments and
analysis about the world’s economic trends and to really interact with these folks is an experience not to
be missed. Having said that the best discussion panel I have attended was probably the one on Emerging
Powers, organized by the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), that reunited leading
economists from Brazil, China, India, Turkey, South Africa, Costa Rica. Those emerging economies have so
much to say about the future they envision for theirselves and the rest of the world, and those visions are
interesting and worth to be heard.
In particular Dr. Liu Guijun’s , Vice President of UIBE, presentation on China’s future economic
developments showed how Chinese enterprises, as the financial crises was spreading in Europe and the US,
shifted their focus on the domestic market that is instead growing at a very rapid pace. This assessment,
if verified to be true, would make obsolete protectionist practices against China that are under discussion
today in several political fora.
Why would young people take part in such an event?
It is fundamental that young people take part in these events, especially in a time of major changes such as
the one we are leaving. First of all, because these are occasions in which their voices can be heard directly:
we keep complaining about being left out from policies, well, if the leading people don’t feel the need
to protect their youngsters rights then it’s probably about time to speak up for ourselves in their own
Secondly because we, as young people, will have to cope with a world that often doesn’t function according
to what has been taught to us in formal education. Therefore, we need to be prepared for the future,
and the best way to do it is to undertake paths of informal learning and first-hand experiences and
confrontations. I came back with a broader understanding of so many different issues, and how they impact
the reality of businesses. Those businesses complained about the WTO being too slow to adapt to their
needs and having to overcome obstacles to their growth by themselves, often doing cross-issue researches
and policies. Moreover, I gained expertise on best practices in International Trade and Investment,
Sustainable Growth and Development, Trade and Job Creation, the Global Value Chain.
Also, listening to success stories and failures of political economies thorough years, is key to design in
young people minds a better formula for the future. And, as we are the ones who will be asked to come
up with these formulas, in order to be up to the task, we need to be updated and informed. In fact, even if
there is the recognition that a lot has to be done, we cannot expect that middle-aged people in decision-
taking positions would be able to reform as daringly as it would be needed. This was also a feeling I got.
How Young Ambassadors Society influenced the Forum and how the Forum influenced the work YAS will do
in the months to come? And who was there to represent YAS?
YAS was represented by a me as its Vice President and another Delegate working in International Trade
sector of Piaggio Spa, Giorgio Giuliani. We both engaged the Panelists with questions and interacted
with them off the sessions. The Forum will influence the work of YAS in many ways: for sure it will give
us a more competent view in our training sessions for the G8 & G20 Youth Summits Delegates, which
is our main event. In addition to that, we will distribute the informative material we collected to all of
our members, and try to engage them too in on-line debates about the issues of International Trade and
Political Economy. Indeed I’ll grab this opportunity to invite all the ones that will read this small interview to
comment here on our blog, visit the Public Forum website, where they can find summaries of the event as
well as videos, and, if they find the proper inspiration, to send us their comments, in a small piece of article,
as well as a video. We will then post them on our Facebook page/Blog and keep the dialogue vivid!
All those who will send us a contribution will receive the official WTO informative material!
YAS Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Young-Ambassadors-Society/145968602165260?
YAS email address: email@example.com
WTO Public Forum Website: http://www.wto.org/english/forums_e/public_forum12_e/