In 1998, world leaders ranging across the spectrum from Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela to Bill Clinton and Tony Blair came together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the multilateral trading system and to support the World Trade Organization (WTO). Less than twenty years later, the value of that system, and of other wide-ranging trade agreements, is being called into question. Trade agreements have attracted controversy before. However, while they disagreed on specific issues, governments in industrialised countries—and mainstream opposition parties too—mostly converged on the benefits of liberalising trade within a framework of multilateral rules. The situation today is very different. The aim of this lecture is to consider the present situation and outlook from an Asia Pacific perspective, and to explore ways in which public and private sector actors in the region might cooperate to help improve it. Open and trade-dependent economies need the security of the multilateral system’s rules and dispute settlement procedures, as well as the opportunities offered by regional agreements. The question is what they can do to defend the policies and agreements that have been so important to their economic success—and still are.
About the Speaker:
Evan Rogerson retired from the WTO Secretariat at the end of March 2017, having held senior positions there for more than 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 coordinated 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 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 was also Secretary of the negotiating group on Agriculture. In 2015 he led the team that prepared the agreement to abolish agricultural export subsidies reached by Ministers at Nairobi that year.