The World Trade Organization (WTO) faces a watershed. Developed country Members want to abandon the Doha round and negotiate ‘new issues’, notably electronic commerce, as part of a broader US-led strategy to rewrite the global trade rules for the 21st century. Developing countries insist the Doha round be concluded before considering new issues and most reject the e-commerce agenda as foreclosing their options for digital development. This standoff dominated the MC11. The new e-commerce agenda has its genesis in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Three factors complicate moves to export it to the WTO. First, those rules are blunt instruments designed to protect the first mover status and oligopolistic power of Big Tech. Second, they lack any development flexibilities or obligations. Third, their application to major developing country competitors and the potentially lucrative markets of larger developing countries requires multilateralization through the WTO, but that will be a highly contested process. That contest is now playing out through the plurilateral process announced by the e-commerce proponents during the MC11. The proposals assume a major expansion of Members’ commitments under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Favourable interpretations of sectoral classifications, modes of trading services, and the application of technological neutrality to historical commitments would override the original GATS acquis that ensures developing countries can control their exposure, and seriously diminish their regulatory autonomy to maximize the opportunities of the digital economy and minimize the risks. Such an agenda could deepen the crisis at the WTO.
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Advanced introduction to international environmental law / Ellen Hey.
Numerous WTO members pursue regional economic integration with both other members and non-WTO-members. The resulting derogation from the most-favoured-nation principle needs to be justified in accordance with the relevant WTO provisions. Regional integration in the service sector is expressly allowed between WTO and non-WTO members pursuant to GATS Article V. In the absence of clear regulation, it has been questioned whether the same is true for regional trade agreements (RTAs) covering trade in goods. Providing a comprehensive interpretation, this paper argues that neither GATT Article XXIV nor the Enabling Clause require the WTO membership of all the parties to an RTA.