The oikos Model WTO: A laboratory of innovative ideas to promote sustainability in the sphere of international trade. Or let us turn the story around: When 72 students discuss trade rules in the context of the WTO, the outcome could be described as visionary and makes me ask myself why we are so far away from implementing these solutions?
In 1997 students at the University of St. Gallen decided that their economics studies should not only be about economic theory and created the oikos Model WTO. A trade policy forum, simulating the work of the World Trade Organisation. Since then, the idea grew further and further, and the local initiative of a few students became a unique, global and well-reputed event.
This year’s Model WTO covered the topic of “Regional & Sustainable trade”. 72 students from all over the world discussed about more sustainable trade policies and questioned the out-dated definitions of “rules of origin” and “like products”, challenged the legitimacy of the EU carbon scheme and transportation subsidies and audited the GATT article 24 that sets the framework for Regional Trade.
The six specific simulation rounds are the core and were surrounded by a multitude of side-events. We begun our event with a speech from the well known Trade Expert, Prof. Simon Evenett on Sunday where he outlined the Role of China and the emerging countries. On Monday we had the pleasure to welcome Mr. Said El Hachimi, a former negotiator for Morocco and now a chairperson at the WTO explaining the complexity of the negotiation processes. On Tuesday, the negotiation rounds went on and a panel discussion in the evening gave all participants the opportunity to get back to specific questions and ask our experts from WTO as well as experts from the World Trade institute (WTI), the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Swiss Institute for International Economics (SIAW).
The official negotiation time ended on Wednesday evening and we hit to Geneva for the final part of the Model WTO. On Thursday, Prof. Joost Pauwelyn underlined the “vigour” of the WTO by elaborating on the “Dispute Settlement Mechanism”. Furthermore the students had the chance to visit the specific missions of the countries they where representing to get feedback and a better understanding of specific national points of view. This was something we were doing for the first time and the feedback was extremely positive. The last day was enriched by experts from WTO coming in and discussing the final achievements with our students and clarifying their personal standpoint, followed by a closing speech by Ms. Abdel Motaal, one of the counsellors to Pascal Lamy, the WTO Director-General.
Ms. Abdel-Motaal completely agreed on the importance of linking the WTO with the current issue of climate change and Pascal Lamy himself stated very clearly on the relevance of the simulation: “The future of the WTO and the global trading system is in the hands of today's youth. We need to enhance their knowledge of global challenges and make them active stakeholders of the global trading system. As future leaders, young people will participate in the decisions taken to shape tomorrow's world. This is why the oikos Model WTO is more than valuable”