The WTO is a symbol of the post-Cold War international order, that of global free trade governed by a set of commonly-agreed upon rules. Notwithstanding the tumultuous history of this global standard, and the WTO’s institutional shortcomings, the body has played the part of independent arbitrator in countless trade disputes since its inception in 1995, making or breaking the fortunes of economic heavyweights the world over with the mere stroke of a pen.
The advent of the Trump administration in the United States seemed to harken the end of an era for the WTO, as its erstwhile champion in Washington turned inward. Free trade advocates had hoped that President Biden would reverse this trend. But early signs from the administration suggest that Trumpian trade policy was no glitch in the system.