At the end of 2017 different groups of WTO members decided to launch talks on four subjects, setting aside the WTO consensus working practice. This paper argues that these ‘joint statement initiatives’ (JSIs) should seek to establish open plurilateral agreements (OPAs) even in instances where the outcome can be incorporated into existing schedules of commitments of participating WTO members. Designing agreements as OPAs provides an institutional framework for collaboration among the responsible national authorities, transparency, mutual review, and learning, as well as alternatives to default WTO dispute settlement procedures which may not be appropriate for supporting cooperation on the matters addressed by the JSIs. In parallel, WTO members should establish enforceable multilateral principles to ensure OPAs are compatible with an open global trade regime.
Bernard M. Hoekman & Charles F. Sabel,
Domain-Specific Plurilateral Cooperation as an Alternative to Trade Agreements,
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Global Governance Programme EUI Working Paper No. RSCAS 2021/01
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