US Consul General joins discussion on trade

November 11, 2013

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The Sir Walter Murdoch Graduate School of Public Policy and International Affairs welcomed U.S. Consul General Ms Cynthia A. Griffin as part of its new Policy Seminar Series on Tuesday, November 5.

Consul General Griffin was joined by Ms Andrea Gleason from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Murdoch University researchers Dr Silke Trommer and Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Professor Ann Capling.

The panel spoke on ‘Rising Powers and the Future of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’, which was followed by a lively Q&A session with academics, government officials and local business and industry stakeholders.

Dr Trommer and Professor Capling discussed insights gained from a recent series of open-ended, one-on-one interviews with Chinese leaders, think tanks and policy makers on the likely destiny of the WTO.

“A common response was that deadlock in the Doha round of negotiations was hampered by members being unable to understand each other’s issues – that they remained ‘standing in their own shoes’,” Dr Trommer said.

“There were also concerns that the negotiating agenda is too broad and that by bringing in too many issues, countries had lost sight of the bigger issues.”

While the panel conceded that the Doha round has been marked by a lack of progress, and that a great deal of negotiating activity had moved to bilateral agreements and multilateral initiatives such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), they agreed that this did not mean that the WTO was irrelevant.

“While the WTO is no longer where a lot of the action is, it continues to be a very worthwhile vehicle for rule-making and dispute settlement,” Professor Capling said.

“There are also some interesting trade developments on its fringes, such as China’s formally announced desire to join the Trade and Services Agreement, which indicates they may be moving towards taking on a leadership role in the WTO.”

Graduate School Dean Professor Benjamin Reilly said the seminar series was part of a new initiative to bring academics and policy makers together to explore a range of international issues.

“The wealth of ideas generated by today’s panel, and the level of engagement on the part of the audience, speak to the potential and value of building bridges between the academic and policy worlds,” Professor Reilly said.

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