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Debate on the multilateral trading system and regional integration

14 July 2010

Debate on the multilateral trading system and regional integration

Lausanne (Switzerland), 7-9 July 2010

Report

Government, business and civil society representatives gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland at the IMD Business School campus on 7 and 9 July 2010 to discuss ways in which to foster an equitable trade system, sustainable development and healthy global governance. This event was organized by the Evian Group and the Garnet Network to deepen understanding of current trade issues among Geneva-based trade negotiators, business, media, academics and civil society. Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, chaired the panel session on trade, development and regional integration; a topic increasingly questioned in relation to the multilateral trading system.

The panel composed of trade experts agreed that as each region has its specific dynamics, the highly institutionalized European model is not necessarily applicable to other regions. In practice, what is happening is often a series of bilateral agreements or loose regional arrangements rather than EU-type regional integration. As the current agenda typically includes the connectivity of markets by removing physical non-tariff barriers and networking cooperation, the WTO still plays an important role as a locking mechanism for trade reform.

Mr. Mikuriya concluded the session by stating that while these topical issues requiring continued debate, connectivity at borders was gaining in importance. He stressed that it was necessary to garner support from political, business and civil society leaders for market connectivity and border reform to realize market access and greater investment at the global and regional level.