Trading in the Twenty-First Century: Is There a Role for the World Trade Organization?

As the World Trade Organization (WTO) begins its third decade, its future is uncertain. The initial expectation that the WTO would be the fulcrum for future international trade agreements has not been met. At best, its tenure has had mixed results. This review addresses the political consequences of WTO membership, focusing on the rules and norms of the regime and why they have become less functional over time; looks at the effectiveness of the WTO and the dispute settlement system in encouraging trade and compliance with agreements; and offers some general thoughts on the impact of shifting mass opinion on the virtue of trade agreements and other stumbling blocks the WTO faces.