The Geopolitics of Multilaterism: The WTO, the BRICs, and the Challenges of Institutionalised Power Transitions
Geopolitical transitions are rare and yet sure events in international relations. Most analysts would agree we live in a time of geopolitical change from a unipolar international system, centered on the USA, to a multipolar configuration of international power, in which the BRICS are among the new poles of power, especially economic power. But the real issue arising from this shift in the global balance of power concerns the relationship between power and international order. What do the BRICS want from the international economic order? Is it possible to identify a unity of purpose among BRICS in relation to the multilateral trading system? The WTO Doha Round of trade negotiations has been caught in the middle of a tangled web created by the new geopolitics of multilateralism. Reforming the multilateral trading rules in order to level the playing field and to reflect a new balance of power, interests, and views is the challenge and main objective of the Doha Round and a necessary step for the WTO as an institution. The current deadlock in negotiations underscores the linkages between geopolitical transformations and the multilateral trading system and, more broadly, the challenges of what might constitute a different kind of great-power transition. Are established powers up to the challenge of peaceful reforms to international regimes and global governance structures? Call it institutionalized power transitions.