The multilateral trade system under stress: Charting Asia’s path forward

The volume aims to examine questions surrounding the shifts occurring to the current multilateral framework and propose answers that can enrich current policy dialogues on free trade and the limits to multilateralism. Current developments and supranational responses to the challenges faced by the dominant multilateral trading system are discussed with special focus on the proposals for reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO). Asia’s role and country responses from leading economies in the region are also presented and discussed. It brings with it the need to revitalize multilateralism, upholding a cooperative international system that facilitates the achievement of common goals.

The hyperglobalized era is increasingly defined by financial insecurity and economic polarization. In particular, increased disagreement over trade rules, currency movements and technological flows threaten to further deteriorate the state of the global economy. The current developments paint a grim global economic perspective leading some observers to point out that the dominant multilateral system is failing to provide both the resources and coordination necessary to stabilize markets, foster a healthy investment climate and create a financial future that works for all.

Does the current multilateral trade system still serve its purpose amidst the erosion of political trust, widening income gaps and a policy agenda that appears to favour hyper globalizations’ winners? If not, then how do we rebuild trade multilateralism based on collective action and shared responsibility? How will Asia position itself in the midst of these shifts?