On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron called on major international players to prepare a roadmap for reforming the WTO, the first part of which can be presented during the G20 summit in Argentina in November. The next day, Washington removed the exemption from a 25-percent tariff on steel and 10-percent tariff on aluminum for the European Union, while the latter pledged to bring its case against the US tariffs to the WTO.
"I would wish him [Macron] good luck. But I don’t think that would be possible, certainly in the current context where you have frictions between certain nations – not only between the European Union and the United States or the United States and China. How many members has the WTO got [164 members]? You have to have the majority of them to get it approved, that would be extremely difficult," Karel Lannoo said.
Lannoo also noted that bilateral agreements between big trade blocs started substituting the WTO role in championing free trade, amid lack of consensus among the organization’s members.
"We have much more bilateral agreements between the big blocs, than we have deals negotiated by the WTO … It’s a good idea to say 'let’s reform it' because the WTO has come down in importance, but whether he [Macron] can do it is a totally different issue," he added.
The WTO has been criticized for years by politicians and businesspeople for its inability to ensure that its rules and international agreements are implemented.