GATT WIKI - Centralizing Information on Bilateral and Multilateral Trade Treaties

Global Access to Trade Treaties (GATT) Wiki Concept

Economic Growth/Trade Capacity Building/Institutional Development/Geospatial

Knowledge Management/Dissemination

Globalization of trade has spawned hundreds of bilateral and multilateral trading arrangements along with supporting regional and multilateral trade related organizations. Obtaining information concerning many of these arrangements is time consuming and costly. Linking those trade agreements with the underlying economic data has yet to occur. Those seeking this information must search in multiple sources only to encounter gaps and inconsistencies in information (e.g., Venezuela’s 2009 bilateral trade and investment treaty with the Russian Federation can be found in UNCTAD’s database, but not in those of the World Bank or ICSID). Integrating and rationalizing both legal and economic information in a single, easy to access portal offers users the ability to visualize, search, and sort large quantities of data relating to international trade agreements, trade related institutional arrangements, and underlying economic data.

The Global Access to Trade Treaties (GATT) Wiki concept is straightforward - rationalize and pool current efforts to collect and disseminate information via the Internet on trade treaties, supporting institutional arrangements, and trade data. The purpose of GATT Wiki is to provide online access to a vast amount of information on trade related agreements and other relevant information presented geospatially through a user interface such as Google Earth. GATT Wiki enables visualization of the complex interdependencies and linkages of global trade at various levels (e.g., global, multilateral, regional, bilateral, national) with the ability to drill down to underlying trade data and documentation.

There are several obstacles to overcome in implementing this concept. The first is the "public good" problem. No one organization is responsible for collecting and maintaining information on trade treaties, related institutional arrangements, and associated information on economic activity. Without a profit motive or an organizational mandate, collection of these data is necessarily ad hoc. The second obstacle relates to organizational focus. Those organizations collecting these data do so for their own purposes. This gives rise to gaps in coverage and duplication of effort. Third, without a comprehensive standard for data collection and dissemination along the lines of the IMF's General and Special Data Dissemination Standards for financial reporting, data sharing and cross-comparison are impeded. Finally, sponsorship and development funding are significant issues to overcome.

All of these obstacles are surmountable. The key ingredient to success is the vision and leadership provided by a Founding Sponsor (FS). The FS acts as a catalyst and facilitator that brings diverse stakeholders to the table to identify and discuss areas of common interest as well as obstacles to successful implementation. The GATT Wiki implementation strategy consists of three phases:

Phase I – Stakeholder Engagement and Prototype Development. The principal objective of Phase I is to build consensus support among key stakeholders (e.g., USTR, EU, WTO, UNCTAD, the World Bank Group and others) for the creation of the GATT Wiki. If such support exists, the FS will provide the leadership in the initial design GATT Wiki. Working in coordination with designated representatives from key stakeholder organizations (Steering Committee) and focus groups (e.g., trade association, business, legal, academic, and others), the FS will facilitate Steering Committee discussions to address technical and non-technical design issues. Some of these include the choice of a technology platform, database architecture, business rules, standards for data collection, validation, and sharing, and long-term financial sustainability of the GATT Wiki.

Phase II – Prototype Development and Testing. Once Steering Committee members reach a consensus on the salient design and development issues, the FS will lead the development and pilot testing of a prototype with input from Steering Committee representatives and focus groups. Importantly, pilot testing will evaluate both the technical solution as well as the all-important business rules that define how key stakeholders collect, validate, and share relevant information through the GATT Wiki. Initial testing will involve a limited amount of data, preferably in a single region and in partnership with a regional trade organization and several member countries.

Phase III – Refinement, Rollout, and Transition. During the third phase of GATT Wiki development, the prototype design is refined based on the results obtained through pilot testing. Steering Committee representatives affirm final design changes and prepare for GATT Wiki rollout. The principal challenges of this phase include raising awareness and building support among trade officials worldwide to provide current information on trade treaties and other relevant information. During the rollout effort, Steering Committee representatives will help raise awareness and advocate for expanded cooperation and support for GATT Wiki implementation among trade officials in countries worldwide. At this critical juncture, leadership for the efforts transitions from the FS to a Sponsoring Organization (SO) that assumes responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the GATT Wiki going forward.

By providing a clear framework for collaboration, the GATT Wiki offers the possibility of creating the first truly global resource on the legal, institutional, and economic bases underling the global trading system. At relatively modest cost, the GATT Wiki could provide a common framework to rationalize and link existing repositories of trade related information maintained by the WTO, UNCTAD, ICSID, MIGA, COMESA, ECOWAS, MERCOSUR, ASEAN, and other organizations. Additionally, it can involve thousands of interested businesses, practitioners, and researchers who derive benefit from ready access to such information.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Craig VanGrasstek wrote:
For a U.S. version of this concept please see my Computerized ENcyclopedia of TRAde Law and Policy (CENTRAL) at www.washingtontradereport.com/CENTRALportal.htm.

Wed, April 11, 2012 @ 6:30 AM

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