International Affairs | 2022
Trade multilateralism would not have featured as a case of ‘abject failure’ had this special issue been planned in 2001. But since then, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has unfortunately become an almost perfect example of how not to negotiate, even when one takes into account the limited successes of the 12th ministerial conference in June 2022. This article proceeds in four steps. The first section outlines the multiple levels of malfunction and breakdown in the organization. The second part argues that a variety of negotiation failures are responsible for the dire straits in which the WTO finds itself today. I identify three broad categories of bargaining failures in this member-driven organization: negotiation mishaps that have led to the Doha deadlocks; negotiation muddles that members have got themselves into while updating the institutional practices of the WTO; and failures on the part of the membership to find negotiated solutions to new systemic challenges. The third section reflects on the interaction of my own research with the world of policy. The fourth and concluding section presents the main ‘Dos’ and ‘Don'ts’ that follow from the analysis, and offers some further policy recommendations.