Where does the World Trade Organisation fit in the overall scheme of international public policy? This paper examines the structural features of the WTO, set against the extended background of the world trading system post-Uruguay Round. It then surveys the political road-blocks impeding progress in the run-up to the Cancun Ministerial and beyond. Questions posed by the paper include the following:
Where is the WTO heading, if anywhere?
What is right or wrong with the organisation?
What is, or should be, its raison d’Ltre?
Should it have a GATT-style market access focus?
Should the WTO widen its regulatory circumference to take in environmental, labour and other ""trade-related"" issues?
Should the WTO have more of a UN-style ""development"" dimension?
The paper concludes that:
free trade is a desirable goal on economic and moral grounds, and progress in that direction, however gradual and piecemeal, should be integral to modern globalisation
the WTO, with the right sort of rules to buttress the protection of private property rights and the enforcement of contracts in cross-border transactions, can be a helpful external prop contributing to the liberty of individuals and the prosperity of nations
politics is a messy, practical affair and sensible political economy has to factor this into the equation