The many challenges for new WTO D-G

  • IASbaba
  • December 17, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

The many challenges for new WTO D-G

Context:  For the first time in its 25-year history, the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be led by a woman, as both the contending candidates for the Director-General (D-G) post are women, from Nigeria and South Korea respectively. 

Challenges for the next DG of WTO are:

  • Competing Interests of Nations: Her job requires balancing the diverse and varied interests of the 164 member countries.
  • Rising Nationalism: She has tough job on reconciling competing multilateral and national visions, for the organisation to work efficiently. 
  • COVID-19 Impact: The next D-G will have to grapple with the global economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and take needed measures to revive falling global economy
  • Reforms: She has to work towards carrying out reforms of the multilateral trading system to maintain the credibility of the institution. 
  • Divide Between north and south: At the core of the divide within the WTO is the Doha Development Agenda(DDA) that is favourable for developing nations. The developed countries are working to jettison DDA in favour of a new agenda that includes, amongst others, e-commerce, investment facilitation, MSMEs and gender. 
  • Restoring the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, especially the revival of its Appellate body, is also crucial for the organisation’s efficient functioning.
  • Restoring Faith of common man: WTO has to demonstrate that it is on the side of the underdog i.e. it’s mission is to enhance the conditions of poor people and not further the agenda of corporates
  • Need for Collaboration in Post COVID world: The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the urgent and enduring need for international cooperation and collaboration, as no country can fight the pandemic alone. 
  • Ensuring Supply Chains are robust: The D-G can help mitigate the effects of the pandemic by giving clear directions on ensuring that supply chains remain free and open, recommending a standard harmonised system with classification for vaccines, and by the removal of import/export restrictions.
  • Removal for IPR barriers for Vaccine distribution: PM Modi’s reiteration that India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will help the whole of humanity will require the D-G to play a responsible role in removing barriers to intellectual property and securing a legal framework within the WTO TRIPS Agreement


Most imminently, the next D-G will need to build trust among its members that the WTO needs greater engagement by all countries, to stitch fair rules in the larger interest of all nations and thwart unfair trade practices of a few.

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