The first fifteen years of the 21st century have seen significant shifts in the balance of geopolitical power. Rapid economic and social change has combined with evolving power relationships to leave governments and institutions struggling to catch up. Multilateral governance and cooperation arrangements set up in the mid-20th century look dated and face unprecedented pressure.
The talk will approach these developments through the lens of trade, where multilateralism faces vigorous competition from preferential deals that may be as much about strategic positioning as they are about trade. Perceived weaknesses of the multilateral trading system have enticed many governments to focus on bilateral or plurilateral approaches. More recently, a number of ‘mega-regional’ initiatives have taken centre stage. How far can these be a substitute for the multilateral system embodied in the WTO? Is multilateralism in trade redundant? If we still need a multilateral framework for trade relations, is the WTO fit for purpose?
While we should be cautious about applying the experience of the trading system to other multilateral structures, there may be insights to be gained from the trade scene that have a broader value.
About the Speaker:
Evan Rogerson has held senior positions in the WTO for twenty years.
He joined the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1976 after graduating in history from Auckland University and initially worked in defence cooperation, then in economic relations. Secondment at the Treasury preceded postings in Brussels and London. His work in those postings focused on trade policy, particularly New Zealand’s relations with the EU and access to the European market.
After a period as External Relations Manager for the NZ Dairy Board in London, he joined the GATT Secretariat in 1986, working in the Agriculture Division on the Uruguay Round negotiations before moving to the Director-General’s Office in 1993. His role here ranged from speechwriting to policy advice.
As Director of the DG’s Office and Chief of Staff to WTO Director-General Renato Ruggiero from 1995 to 1999 he was closely involved with the WTO’s first Ministerial Conference in Singapore in 1996. Among many other roles during this time he acted as the WTO’s G-8 sherpa and co-ordinated the GATT/WTO’s 50th anniversary ministerial in 1998 which brought together world leaders including Presidents Clinton, Castro and Mandela.
He worked closely with Director-General Mike Moore to prepare the successful launch of the new Round at Doha in 2001. From 2002 he headed the Council and TNC Division, servicing the WTO’s top committees and Ministerial Conferences. In 2012 he came back to the Agriculture and Commodities Division as Director. In this role he is also Secretary of the Special Session, or negotiating group, on Agriculture. He represents the WTO in various high-level international forums, especially on food security.