What the race to lead the WTO says about some thorny trade issues
世贸组织掌门人的角逐反映出一些棘手的贸易问题

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MEMBERS OF THE World Trade Organisation (WTO) are not known for co-operating with each other. So when in June they began the process of choosing a new director-general, many feared deadlock. But now, as the process draws to a close, officials are feeling hopeful. Two candidates are still in the running: Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the chairwoman of GAVI, a vaccine-finance agency, and a former World Bank official and finance minister; and Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea’s trade minister. A winner is due to be announced by November 7th, and support seems to be coalescing around Ms Okonjo-Iweala. Yet the contest says more about the discord in the trading system than the harmony.
世贸组织(WTO)的成员国并不以相互合作闻名。所以当该组织6月开始遴选新任总干事时,很多人担心会出现僵局。但现在,随着遴选工作接近尾声,官员们看到了希望。两位候选人仍在角逐:疫苗融资机构全球疫苗免疫联盟(GAVI)的主席、前世界银行官员、尼日利亚前财政部长恩戈齐·奥孔约-伊维拉(Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala),以及韩国贸易部长俞明希。结果将在11月7日前宣布,支持的声音似乎开始向奥孔约-伊维拉聚结。不过,这场竞逐更多地显现了这一贸易体系中的分歧而非和谐。

The candidates themselves did a good job of highlighting various divisions in the course of the selection process (while dutifully noting that only members have the power to resolve them). Between them they identified a long list of problems: jammed negotiations that have left the WTO’s rule book out of date; a broken system of solving disputes; members’ lacklustre commitment to transparency; and a trade war between America and China.
在遴选过程中,候选人各自成功地突显了各种分歧(同时也尽职地指出只有成员国才有能力解决它们)。两人提到了一长串问题:谈判长期僵持不下,以至于世贸组织的规则手册已经过时;争端解决机制运作失灵;成员国在保证透明度的问题上态度敷衍;还有中美之间的贸易战。

Disagreements between members also explain the candidates’ rather limited ambitions. A bold agenda might include a grand bargain on agriculture that lowers tariffs in poor countries and limits subsidies in rich ones. Ms Myung-hee is a seasoned negotiator and not one to shy away from tricky talks. Even so, rather than shooting for a big deal, she now reckons that restoring the WTO’s credibility as a negotiating forum means just agreeing on something. She would prioritise ongoing talks to curb members’ fishing subsidies. (Even that narrower deal will be a stretch, given that negotiators do not yet agree on what counts as fish.)
成员国之间的分歧也解释了候选人的抱负为何相当有限。一个大胆的议程可能包括推进农业上的重大协议,它将降低贫穷国家的关税,限制富裕国家的补贴。俞明希是个经验丰富的谈判高手,不会回避棘手的对话。即便如此,她现在认为,要恢复世贸组织作为谈判论坛的信誉,可以先谈成点什么,而不是要竭力达成一项重大协议。她会优先考虑正在进行中的限制成员国渔业补贴的谈判。(考虑到谈判代表们还没有就“鱼”的定义达成一致,即使这个更小的协议也不容易实现。)

Ms Okonjo-Iweala has emphasised her experience fighting covid-19 as her strong suit. As head of GAVI she understands the importance of open trade so that vital supplies can get to where they are needed. But this too is a thorny topic. Rich countries are more interested in lowering others’ tariffs than limiting their own right to apply export controls. They also hate a recent proposal from India and South Africa to suspend intellectual-property protection for products that could prevent, contain or treat the disease. So instead Ms Okonjo-Iweala has spoken only vaguely of exploring new trade rules and intellectual-property and licensing rights for drugmaking.
奥孔约-伊维拉强调自己抗击新冠肺炎的经验作为竞选主打牌。身为GAVI的负责人,她理解开放贸易的重要性。唯有贸易开放,至关重要的物资才能运到需要的地方。但这同样是个棘手的问题。富裕国家更感兴趣的是降低其他国家的关税,而不是限制自己实施出口控制的权利。它们也讨厌印度和南非最近提出的一项建议,即暂停对可能预防、控制或治疗新冠肺炎的产品的知识产权保护。因此,奥孔约-伊维拉只是含糊地提到了探索新的贸易规则以及药品生产的知识产权和许可权。

If she wins, Ms Okonjo-Iweala has also promised to empower the WTO’s secretariat. That could be controversial—some members will resist what they see as a threat to their power over negotiations. But it could also help poorer countries, some of which lack the capacity to draft proposals on their own, making it hard to participate in talks. Her political clout will be useful too. If the problems of the global trading system were purely technical, “they would have been solved long ago”, she told members in July.
奥孔约-伊维拉还承诺,如果她当选,会赋予WTO秘书处更多权力。这可能有争议,一些成员国会抵制,因为它们认为这会威胁到自己对谈判的影响力。但此举也可能帮助较贫穷的国家,其中一些国家缺乏自己起草提案的能力,因此难以参与谈判。她的政治影响力也将有所帮助。如果全球贸易体系的问题纯粹是技术性的,“那早就解决了”,她7月时对成员国说。

But Ms Okonjo-Iweala’s success would also say something about the geopolitics of trade. China could reject Ms Myung-hee if that allows it to keep its deputy-director-general spot. (Historically, jobs have been divvied up among regions.) Japan’s nasty trade dispute with South Korea makes it unlikely to support Ms Myung-hee. Brazil, a big exporter of farm products, may be put off by South Korea’s membership of the G10 group of countries, which staunchly defends agricultural subsidies. The agreement on the next director-general could be born from a host of disagreements. ■
但奥孔约-伊维拉若成功当选,也将揭示出贸易的地缘政治问题。中国可能否决俞明希,如果这能让它保住自己副总干事的位置的话。(就以往经验看,职位是按地区分配的。)日韩之间的贸易争端难分难解,日本不太可能支持俞明希。农产品出口大国巴西可能会对身为G10成员国的韩国心怀芥蒂,因为G10坚决维护农业补贴政策。对谁出任下一任总干事的一致意见可能在纷繁的歧见中产生。

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