The WTO and the Spaghetti Bowl of Free Trade Agreements: Four Proposals for Moving Forward

Policy Brief No. 87

September 23, 2016

As many major trading nations sign trade agreements among themselves, creating a “spaghetti bowl” of trade arrangements that bypass the World Trade Organization (WTO), the organization is becoming less relevant for international trade negotiations. The WTO’s lack of relevance is worsened by the negotiations impasse within the organization, the so-called Doha Round negotiations deadlock. The WTO has taken some steps to deal with the spaghetti bowl, mostly by introducing transparency mechanisms. The WTO needs to make these transparency mechanisms more robust and link them to national transparency on the ground, and WTO member states need to consider taking action more formally and systematically to control and monitor the spaghetti bowl.

About the Author