The Sutherland Report: A Missed Opportunity for Genuine Debate on Trade, Globalization and Reforming the WTO

Document Type



The most up-to-date version of this piece can be found in the Duke Law Scholarship


In January 2005, at the 10th anniversary of the organization, the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued the long-awaited high-level panel report on The Future of the WTO. This essay explains why the so-called Sutherland Report, named after one of its authors, is likely to be regarded by history as a missed opportunity. The report was written by insiders, focuses on insider problems and offers what are essentially insider-based solutions. The essay addresses two specific foundational problems skirted in the Sutherland report: (i) the WTO's protectionist/producer bias and (ii) the question of coordination and coherence with other international organizations. It also offers an alternative diagnosis of the world trade system and suggests a novel paradigm to assess WTO reform proposals. Finally, some of the proposals in the Sutherland report are examined in light of this novel paradigm.

Date of Authorship for this Version

September 2005