World Economy Brief
World Economy Brief
The Crisis of the WTO and New Direction for Negotiation Strategies of Korea
- Author Jin Kyo Suh, Cheon-Kee Lee, Jukwan Lee, Jihyeon Kim and Myeonghwa Jung
The WTO is facing a historical crisis. Its main functions ‒ namely, providing a negotiating forum, administrating WTO trade agreements and monitoring national trade policies, and resolving trade disputes ‒ have been significantly paralyzed. Although the cause of the crisis is partly institutional, higher uncertainty is also a considerable problem aggravating the fate of the multilateral trading system. Such uncertainty comes from two factors: rising protectionism, and trade frictions between developed and developing countries including those between the United States and China. Meanwhile, the WTO also needs to respond to rapid structural changes in global trade. The center of the world’s trade is shifting towards trade in services. The development and spread of information and communication technology (ICT) are making it easier to supply services across borders. The regionalization or localization of global value chains (GVCs) continues and GVCs are shifting towards knowledge-based goods. Therefore, the WTO faces a historical challenge it is highly unlikely to survive without proper reflection on the new trends of global trade.
With Korea no longer claiming for preferential treatments as a developing country, it could take relatively firm negotiating positions at the WTO concerning market expansion and improved access towards foreign markets. Moreover, Korea could contribute as a mediator to speak for balancing the interests of both developed and developing countries on conflicting issues, such as the developing country status. Korea also needs to establish a more precise give-and-take negotiation strategy in future WTO negotiations on agriculture, non-agriculture, and service sectors to maximize its national interests. In particular, Korea should put stress on services and TRIPs negotiations to ensure its international competitiveness on those sectors. Trade in services and IP will dominate trade in goods. Korea also should focus on how to raise the efficiency and stability of the East-Asian regional value chains by strengthening its co-operation with China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. At the same time, Korea needs to consider ways to become the bridgehead connecting East Asia’s value chains to either North America’s value chains or the EU’s value chains utilizing given FTAs with those economies. Finally, Korea should prepare for the emergence of various forms of plurilateral negotiations and where appropriate, take lead and reflect its national interests on the final outcome.
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