The role of WTO in contemporary global trade relations.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the evolution of international trade was marked by the tension between two apparently contradictory trends: on the one hand, the growing liberalization of trade (Free Trade); on the other, a variety of governments’ projects to set up trading blocs (Protectionism).  The most important of these trading areas is the European Union, but the apparent trend toward regionalization of the world economy was present in other areas of the world, as exemplified by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), MERCOSUR, and the Asian Pacific Economic Council (APEC).  These trends, together with persistent protectionist practices throughout the world, mainly in East and South Asia, led a number of observers to propose the notion of a regionalized global economy.  That is, a global system of trade between trading areas, with increasing homogenization of customs within the area, while maintaining trade barriers Vis‐a`‐vis the rest of the world.  While the projects of trading blocs either faded, or evolved into full economic integration in the 1990s, the openness of global trade was boosted by a number of institutional steps toward its liberalization.  After the successful conclusion of the GATT’s Uruguay Round of the Marrakesh Agreement in 1994, leading to a significant reduction of tariffs around the world, a new World Trade Organization (WTO) was created to act as watchdog of a liberal trade order and a mediator of trade disputes between trading partners.  Multilateral agreements sponsored by the WTO have created a new framework for international trade, furthering global integration.

Today, the world is complex.  The international organisations including the UN, IMF, World Bank, BIS, and WTO face new global challenges.  In the recently concluded World Economic Forum (Davos) China’s President Xi Jinping raised concerns on propagation of protectionism in global trade relations; “we must remain committed to developing global free trade and investment, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation through opening‐up and say no to protectionism.  Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room.  While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air.  No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.”

Against this backdrop, critically analyse the role of WTO in contemporary global trade relations.  The assignment should be written in the form of a legal essay giving dispassionate advice to the Australian Government.

A well‐structured answer should address several questions like the following;

Are legal international principals such as, ‘National Treatment’ (NT) and ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) still relevant?

What makes WTO obsolete as argued by protectionist countries?  What are the arguments against WTO?

Does the WTO undermine national sovereignty?  Is it right for any international organisation to do so?  Why do nation states then persist as members of the WTO 

Is this just another phase in the normal historical oscillation between the free trade and protectionist poles?

Are we better off with the WTO or without it?




Important Information Regarding the Assessment Criteria


This assessment task is a research assignment relevant to the materials introduced in Topic One: The International Trading System.  We expect students to conduct research and further reading around the topic  Appropriate sources of research include textbooks, peer reviewed scholarly journals, and case commentaries or summaries (e.g.. from the WTO’s own website: or from other websites such as 

The task is designed to test your knowledge and understanding of the relevant law, your ability to research and identify the relevant laws, your knowledge and understanding of those laws and your ability to apply those laws to the facts provided.  It will also assess your ability to communicate clearly, articulate arguments with support from the unit materials and your research and draw conclusions appropriate to your discussion.


Please ensure that your response is in paragraphs, uses full sentences and that your work is referenced, proofread and spell checked before submission.  Good use of paragraphs, clear writing, correct spelling, and grammar as well as correct citation of disputes and WTO Agreements/cases, international materials and legislation will be rewarded. 


All work must be properly referenced using footnotes.  Students are encouraged to consult the Australian Guide to Legal Citation in relation to this referencing style.  See Moodle or an online version may be found at:


Word Limit

 Your response should not exceed 2000 words.  This limit includes footnotes, where they have been used to present additional text.  Responses which exceed the word limit by more than 10% will be penalised.  Please indicate on Coversheet total number of words.  Students failing to do so risk being penalised based on the marker’s estimate of the word count. 

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