RSIS Webinar Series on “Economic Multilateralism for Post-COVID-19 Recovery”
The Future of Multilateralism and the Role of Plurilaterals
The WTO remains the sine qua non of the multilateral trading system. Given the continued impasse in negotiations, many WTO Members are increasingly participating in plurilateral initiatives at the WTO. For example, the Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs), are gaining momentum and present opportunities to rejuvenate the WTO and maintain its relevance in the 21st century through addressing modern business needs. However, some Members have argued that these plurilaterals would be antithetical to WTO’s multilateral mandate. How can the plurilaterals enable or hinder the WTO’s work? To what extent do these plurilateral initiatives promote or fragment economic multilateralism?
About the Series
The global economy and the liberal international economic order are at a critical juncture. The US-China “trade war” and COVID-19 have exposed the strengths and weaknesses of the global production networks that have increasingly become the foundation of our thriving global economy. They have also demonstrated the strengths and limits of international cooperation in times of crisis.
While many now feel that the global economy could not, and would not, go back to “business as usual” post-COVID-19, the future is however an open question. Will we see a retreat from globalisation and a concomitant rise in economic nationalism? Should we expect lower economic growth rates to be the new norm? Would capitalism look very different from before? How would such changes affect our economic opportunities, quality of life, and lifestyle? What will become of the liberal international economic order, and its associated economic multilateralism, that prevailed pre-Trump?
Lurking behind these events are two higher-order issues that should be confronted as we ponder an economic future beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic: (a) what are the implications of on-going changes in the hierarchy of global power, and (b) what should be the nature and character of our evolving globalised economy?
This CMS webinar series will address these major questions that confront us as we contemplate the state of economic multilateralism in a post-COVID recovery. This series adopts a unique perspective to these issues by focusing on voices from the Asian region, which has been identified as the region most likely to be both the driver of economic growth coming out of the COVID pandemic as well as the future locus of global economic power.
About the Panellists
Mr Alan Wm. Wolff is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Until joining PIIE, he was deputy director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). During the six months ending on March 1, 2021, he was co-acting director-general of the WTO. Ambassador Wolff is writing a book on the future of the trading system during his visiting fellowship at the Peterson Institute.
Wolff is a founder of the Trade for Peace (T4P) Initiative, which joins the WTO, the International Financial Institutions and the peace community in their efforts to provide assistance to fragile and conflict-affected countries. His numerous writings on current trade topics during his tenure at the WTO are available at WTO.org.
Wolff served as United States deputy special representative for trade negotiations in the Carter administration and was general counsel of the office in the Ford administration. He has served as a senior trade negotiator in, and advisor to, both Democratic and Republican administrations.
He holds a JD degree from Columbia University and an AB degree from Harvard College.
Mr Abdelhamid Mamdouh was the Director of the Trade in Services and Investment Division since May 2001 prior to retirement from the WTO at the end of September 2017. Previously, he was a Senior Counsellor in the Trade in Services Division. He had been the Secretary of the WTO Council for Trade in Services since the establishment of the WTO in 1995. During that time, he was also responsible for legal affairs relating to Trade in Services and the implementation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Earlier, during the Uruguay Round negotiations, his responsibilities included legal matters relating to the negotiation, design and drafting of the GATS. Before joining the GATT secretariat as a dispute settlement lawyer in January 1990, Mr. Mamdouh was representing Egypt to the GATT in the Uruguay Round Negotiations on a wide range of issues, including services.
Dr Mehmet Sait Akman is Associate Professor, and Director of G20 Studies Centre at TEPAV (The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey), a leading policy think-tank. He teaches international trade at TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Ankara.
He has been visiting researcher at European University Institute, Florence; London School of Economics, London. He was formerly instructor of Regional Trade Policy Courses of the WTO, delivering training to trade bureaucrats for CEECAC (Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Caucasus) region.
He is the co-chair of T20 Italy-Trade, Investment and Growth Task Force, in 2021; and was co-chair of the same Task Force during T20 Saudi Arabia (in 2020). Akman is currently a member of the steering committee in TIRN (Trade and Investment Research Network), an independent worldwide network of scholars specialising in trade policy issues.
Professor Jane Kelsey has law degrees from Victoria University of Wellington, Oxford University, Cambridge University and a PhD from the University of Auckland and will shortly retire from the Faculty of Law at the University of Auckland, New Zealand after 42 years. Prof Kelsey has been a critical analyst of the multilateral trade regime since the Brussels ministerial conference in 1990, specialising in services, investment, digital and other regulatory issues, and has been actively engaged in debates over legality of the JSIs from a development perspective.