November 22, 2019

Estonia’s 20th Anniversary in the World Trade Organization

imago/Ralph Peters/Scanpix

Last spring, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of Estonia’s membership of the European Union and NATO, and now it is time to look back on its 20 years in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The November issue of Diplomaatia explores what benefits WTO membership has brought to Estonia and what the future of world trade could be like.

Roberto Azevêdo, WTO Director-General, writes about the importance of trade. “Recent research shows that WTO membership affects countries’ trade performance more than previously thought. Joining the WTO or its predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, raised trade between members by 171%,” says Azevêdo.

Kristina Uibopuu, who represented Estonia at the WTO, writes about the difficulties of reaching agreements in the organisation. “It is clear that no multilateral agreements can be signed in the WTO without the support of key states, which means that, before any potential compromise can be made at the multilateral level, the trade war between its two largest member states must first be satisfactorily concluded,” writes Uibopuu. “However, since the world is continually changing while it waits for the greats to resolve their argument, we may see a WTO in which a significant number of new agreements are concluded between specific parties, i.e. only a few member states that have both the desire to enter into new deals and the willingness to compromise.”

Diplomaatia’s interview with Denis Redonnet, Director for WTO Legal Affairs and Trade in Goods at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade, focuses on the EU’s role in protecting WTO rules. “The WTO, and before it the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, has been the set of rules that insulated trade from the pressures of other international affairs for more than 70 years,” he writes. “Without it, trade would be at the mercy of other diplomatic, security and political priorities …. We have recently had a taste of what it means to not follow the rules; to prefer unilateral action over cooperation. Now the WTO is in crisis and the EU is on the front line of the fight to save it,” says Redonnet.

University of Tartu researchers Urmas Varblane and Matthias Juust write about the trade war between the US and China and how it may lead to an economic crisis. “The economic effect of the trade war between two of the world’s largest countries is complicated and has a global impact. In simple terms, imposing trade restrictions inevitably brings about an economic recession,” they write.

Diplomat Veikko Montonen explores the European Commission’s role in trade negotiations and its importance to Estonia. Scholar Viljar Veebel looks at the Baltic defence options.

Ethnologist Aimar Ventsel reviews new books on international relations.

Filed under: Paper issue