The WTO may have hit a road block with the current setbacks of the DOHA rounds. However the overall institution is still very useful, especially for the EU and the USA, the two largest and liberalized economies. While yes, the lack of conclusive decisions made with the DOHA round and the several missed deadlines isn’t good for the authority of the organization, it doesn’t make the WTO useless. These rounds on trade agreement are vital to open communication and even having continuing rounds were 152 members are welcome to be equally represented is quite a feat in itself. The idea that 2010 marked the year that the “global trade system died” is over the top. Often it is easy to criticize the short comings of an institution like the WTO but if there are positive contributions to global trade then there is still some value in the WTO.
Global economy has been steadily increasing at 9% for decades. This comes from trading (not exclusively the WTO) but the WTO does much to aid that. The WTO is the new and improved version of the GATT. The WTO encompasses several more types of trades and is much more open to all countries. The WTO has a far more powerful Dispute Settlement Systems, which is likely the most important aspect of the WTO to date and a huge reason why the WTO is still a relevant and important institution. It allows differing economies to more peaceably solve trade disagreements and also creates a forum for similar economies to bind together to increase their voice (i.e. the G20 and G80).
However where the WTO does have room for improvement still lies in the equality of state interests. Even though the institution’s set up is inclusive (ex one seat, one vote for all states) weaker states are still very easily coerced by stronger states meaning reciprocity can still play a very large part in how a country votes on certain policies. Further the Dispute System, while a great and heavily used system to solve economic disputes is inaccessible to weaker states since the cost of a case can easily total half a million dollars. That’s something that no small or developing state can do or at least do frequently. Furthermore if they do initiate a case, they face the chance of destroying relations with a stronger nation which can have repercussions. These power dynamics are what allowed for example intellectual property protections and the HIV/AIDS case.
Yet with all the inequality between the developing and developed nations, that is not symptomatic of the institution but instead of the larger structure of international trade relations in general. I would argue that without the WTO these developing countries would be far worse off because they would be coerced, denied even the option to dispute, left out of trade agreements since policies like MNF wouldn’t exist, and cut out of any negotiations. However with the WTO they have involvement and the more powerful states have to at least make some concessions to give the appearance of fairness.