I have greatly enjoyed blogging about Pascal Lamy's speeches over the years. He gets into real substance far more than most public officials. Here are some snippets from his final speech as DG.
First, some skepticism on the trend towards regionalism:
We also know that behind the headlines of the launching of mega regionals, as some refer to them, lie tremendous difficulties and sometimes even no final deal at all, as was the case of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
I agree with him here. I know there is a lot of excitement about the TPP and TTIP, but I have doubts about whether we'll ever see completed deals. The next two years should give us the answer, one way or the other.
Then there are questions about the scope of trade agreements:
But I do think we would do well to recognise that the issue is not trade opening IN the WTO as opposed to trade opening OUTSIDE the WTO. The issue today is with the difficulties involved in trade opening. Domestic trade politics have become more difficult and trade deals have become more complex because the nature of obstacles to trade has evolved. We are no longer negotiating just the reduction of tariffs, but also of non-tariff barriers, which have gained enormous importance.
On this issue, let me just reiterate something I've said a number of times: I don't think "non-tariff barriers" is a meaningful category. We have been beyond tariffs since the 1930s, so that is nothing new. What we need to do here is break down "non-tariff barriers" into its components. One component is protectionist laws and regulations, and addressing those in trade agreements has a long history and is not too controversial. The other component is measures that have an effect on trade but are not protectionist (e.g., IP rights). That part is very controversial.
And finally a bit about regulation:
The WTO is not a regulatory agency for the vast majority of non-tariff measures, but it is well placed to become a platform where the convergence of these measures could be monitored, along the lines of what we have done for Aid for Trade.
I'm not sure exactly what he has in mind here, but convergence of regulations is a big topic in the TTIP talks. Ideally, these convergence issues would be multilateralized at some point. I think there is potential here, although some of the claimed benefits are probably overstated. This is something I'm writing about right now.