Global Trade Multilateralism and Role of UNGA in Voting System and Sustainable Development Goals

Sarangi U

Published on: 2019-04-30


The research paper studies the global trade, multilateralism, voting system and the role of UNGA in promoting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Global trade has direct impact on multilateralism which affects the growth and development of RTAs which are considered as the vital components and ingredients of international trading system. It is observed that the RTAs work not only in increasing trade flows, but also in improving the macro parameters such as world economic, social, environmental and cultural systems. RTAs also help in promoting not only the world economic policies, but also the world foreign policies which have direct repercussions on the world trade and political systems. Enhancement in international trade increases the scope of development of the world political and social systems, which in turn help in attaining global peace through inclusive societies, thereby leading to achieving the SDGs slated by UN. The paper also studies the international trade prospects, linkages between economic and foreign policies, role of UNGA and the UN Voting system and the focus areas of UNGA for promoting multilateralism and SDGs, politics of trade cooperation, e-commerce and international trade, LDCs and their Export Challenges, pacific island economies and new economic building linkages and role of UNCTAD in this direction, trade deals and the voting similarity index, multiplicity of RTAs which promote economic and foreign policies, politics of political systems etc.,


RTAs; Multilateralism; UNGA Voting Systems; Politics of Cooperation; Voting index


A remarkable improvement and recovery in world trade had been noticed in 2017 and also continued in 2018, with trade growth surpassing the growth of global gross domestic product. Though there has been normally an optimistic outlook in global trade, but it seems that the roots and the integrity of the multilateral trading system may collapse and is under serious threat. This has resulted in enhancing the prospects for sustained global trade growth and the achievement of a comprehensive development agenda for global growth and sustainable development.

Trends in Global Trade

In 2017, global trade has finally rebounded after continuous decline in previous years. Global trade grew by 9 percent compared to the previous year, thereby reaching a value close to $23 trillion. Despite the increase, international trade remained low at about $1.2 trillion below its peak, which was attained in 2014. As per World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations forecasts, trade was expected to grow by about 4.5 per cent in 2018, commensuration with global output. Amidst recovery and optimism in global trade, there has been a substantial change and improvement in international trade dynamics resulting in harmonious economic development, global peace and in developing resilient and inclusive societies. Though there has been steady increase in international trade in the 1990s and 2000s, this has been replaced by a more erratic pattern in global trade growth thereby leading to fragility, vulnerability and external shocks, particularly in the landlocked and small island economies. After the strong recovery from the financial crisis of 2008, trade grew at a sluggish pace and then there was a steep rise by 12 per cent in 2015 and by 3 per cent in 2016. The performance of international trade during the past five years has been quite erratic in comparison to that with the previous trend, but also with the overall economic environment. While international trade growth outperformed economic growth during most of the past three decades, in 2015 and 2016 global output increased while the value of international trade decreased. This inverse relationship between global output and international trade is quite surprising, the cause of which might be due to exogenous factors such as natural calamities, external shocks, climate change issues etc., resulting in such erratic trends and behavior amongst the global macroeconomic aggregates. These dynamics are captured by commonly used indices to gauge globalization trends i.e. the ratio of the value of world trade over global output. This index remained more of less constant at about 62 per cent between 2011 and 2014 and then fell drastically during 2015 and 2016 in these two years which are often referred to as periods of de-globalization and hyperglobalization. This is due to the fact that there is an urgent need of structural transformation to be undertaken in the least developed economies, undeveloped/underdeveloped and Small Island including land locked economies, as these economies have high level of unemployment and abject poverty which calls for serious macroeconomic and structural transformation in these economies. This would lead to development of the international integration process. Many economies in the world began focusing on a more national development path as a result of the ongoing decline in the vertical specialization process across countries. However, the national development objective needs to be suitably integrated with the international objectives so that the world economies would grow and stabilize in a systematic manner.  Indeed, the reliance of the manufacturing sector on imported inputs (measured by the share of intermediate imports over the exports of manufacturing goods) has declined in many countries during the past decade. Thus, as a result, the role of services sector in the global economy has increased in importance. There were geographically wide disparities and downturn in global trade during the years 2015 and 2016. Developing countries were hit much harder by the collapse in trade in most cases in comparison to the developed countries. This is on account of the fact that the macroeconomic fundamentals of these economies including the LDCs/small island/land locked economies are not robust enough to withstand the downturn in global trade and the global economic slowdown. These economies are more prone and vulnerable to external shocks which have taken a heavy toll on the macroeconomic fundamentals/aggregates of these economies. Although trade rebounded strongly in 2017, the value of merchandise exports in 2017 remained well below the level that was reached in 2014 for most countries. East Asia represented the only region for which exports returned to levels comparable to those seen in 2014, largely on account of more limited declines in 2015 and 2016. This is due to the fact that these economies developed an improved growth trajectory vis-à-vis the other economies in the world.  This resilience is not surprising, as East Asian manufacturing exporters are in general more diversified and competitive in international markets, which allowed them to better weather the unfavourable economic environment. To add to this, the East Asian economies including Eurasia have adopted the BRI projects implemented by the Chinese economy. This has resulted in massive economic growth in these economies due to the implementation of large scale mega infrastructure projects through adoption of BRI corridors. Looking beyond regional averages, most countries experienced rebounds in 2017 but with different magnitudes and scale of growth. Among the major economies, merchandise exports rebounded by about 9 per cent in the European Union, 8 per cent in China and 6.5 per cent in the United States of America. Emerging Asian economies fared well in general, with exports in the Republic of Korea growing by about 16 per cent and in India by 13 per cent. Wider differences in the magnitude of rebounds were observed in Africa, owing primarily to less diversified export structures of those economies. Among major African economies, exports in South Africa grew by about 18.5 per cent, in Nigeria by about 15.5 per cent and in Ethiopia by about 8.5 per cent. On the other hand, exports in Egypt and Kenya grew by only 1 per cent. Exports also rebounded strongly in most Latin American countries. Exports in Brazil grew by 17.5 per cent, in Chile by 12.5 per cent and in Mexico by 9.5 per cent. An exception among the broad-based rebound in Latin American countries was Argentina, whose exports grew by only 1 per cent. In fact the heterogeneity in recoveries across various nations highlights the need for the nuanced and varied policy approaches required to achieve Sustainable Development Goal target 17.11 slated by United Nations as well as the fragility of gains made in this context. In the past few years, the dynamics of South-South trade relationships existing amongst various economies have also changed drastically. As of 2017, trade between developing countries accounted for about 27 per cent of global trade. While South-South trade fuelled a large part of the trade expansion during 2000, its role as engine of global trade growth has diminished during the past five years. About half of South-South trade involves China. Excluding trade between China and other developing countries, South-South trade represents about 13 per cent of world trade. South-South trade was more affected by the trade downturn of 2015 and 2016 as well as by the rebound of 2017. This would have important implications and ramifications for the ability of countries to harness trade to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Commodities trading is critical for developing countries to achieve SDGs

Commodity prices have played a substantial and a critical role both in the collapse of international trade and in its recovery. Given that almost two thirds of developing countries are commodity-dependent, with the proportion being about 80 percent among least developed countries (LDCs), commodities prices remain hugely influential on the export earnings of many countries. The upsurge and volatility of oil prices in Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have serious repercussions on the developing economies thereby effecting the global trade. Ultimately, price movements and their fluctuations affect the ability of developing nations to address their socio-economic development needs and fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals. In this regard, while commodity prices increased across the board in 2016, the trends in 2017 were more varied geographically. Overall commodity prices kept increasing, as measured by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) free market commodity price index, which rose by about 8.5 per cent in 2017. However, the increase in this composite index was driven primarily by fuels (up 13.5 per cent in 2017), which reached a two-year high triggered by supply cuts agreed upon by major producers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers. The price index of minerals, ores and metals also increased (7 per cent in 2017), fuelled by strong demand and concerns over the limited supply of some base metals, particularly those used in the construction of electric vehicles. Preliminary statistics for the first three months of 2018 suggest a reversal in the trends of 2017, with a downward trend in the prices of fuels and metals and an upward trend in agri-food prices. However, the most recent projections show a possible substantial price recovery for metals and fuels. At this stage, it is difficult to determine to what extent this price recovery will be maintained globally in the long-run. The current trade growth is expected to affect grains markets, for example, with a possible impact on food supplies and production. This would result in inequalities in food grains and their supplies. Given that most net food-importing countries are developing countries, they are expected to be more affected by policy shocks to international grains markets. This would have serious repercussions and ripples in the various economies in the world. Although trade in services is still dominated by developed countries, developing countries have been picking and catching up to that extent slowly and steadily. Over the past decade exports of services have grown more than exports of goods, and have grown more in developing countries than in developed countries. Exports of services have also been more resilient than exports of goods, as shown by the much lower declines in the services exports, both in the 2009 global economic and financial crisis and in the 2015 trade downturn. The developing economies’ share in global exports of services increased from 23 per cent in 2005 to 30 per cent in 2017. Among developing regions, Asia registered the fastest growth in exports of services between 2005 and 2017, and Africa the slowest. Despite the focus on transport and travel in the export profiles of developing economies, between 2005 and 2017, telecommunications, computer and information services, financial services and other business services ranked among the fastest growing categories of services exported from developing economies. These services experienced annual growth rates of 12 per cent, 11 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively. Although for least developed countries, exports of services remain very low relative to global exports of services, about 0.7 per cent in 2017, they are rapidly increasing thereby accounting for 19 percent of the total exports from least developed countries. This underscores the potential role of exports of services in achieving Sustainable Development Goal target 17.11 of United Nations. The contribution of services to development cannot be undermined and could be enhanced by allowing access to international markets, which provide for more competition and relevant inputs and factors that support national services.  This idea is supported by the higher productivity of service-exporting firms than of non-service-exporting firms in low-income countries. Still, restrictiveness continues to be relevant and play a dominant role in the services trade, especially in professional services and transport. While some countries are reducing restrictions, particularly in mode 3 of the WTO modes of supply, trade in services through the temporary movement of people remains with tight restrictions, such as quotas, labour market tests and durations of stay,  restrictive visa and work permit rules and no recognition of qualifications and licenses. Considering that trade costs for services are high and declining more slowly than trade costs for goods, addressing such restrictions need to be a critical component of trade policy.

Theoretical Aspects and Literature Review

Revitalizing the United Nations to “strengthen a multilateral rule-based world order” tops a list of priorities the UN General Assembly President Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces addressed the UN Member States on 15th January, 2019. She was convinced that “revitalizing the UN and advancing multilateralism go hand-in-hand” [1]. She further reiterated that she was engaging with world leaders in New York and abroad, ‘to promote this objective’. She also vowed to work on revitalizing the General Assembly, as well as on reforming the UN Security Council and aligning the UN’s objectives to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Calling the 2030 Agenda ‘a cornerstone of the success of multilateralism’, she stressed the importance of building greater public understanding and support for it [1]. Her second priority was on implementing two new global accords on refugees and migrants, for which she had appointed two co-facilitators to consult with Member States on arrangements for the International Migration Review Forums the primary intergovernmental platform for States to discuss implementing and share progress on the Global Compact [1]. As per the statement made by President, UNGA, she would also continue raising awareness about the importance of an informed debate on international migration, which is based on facts and figures, to help Member States develop their own policies and support the implementation of Global Compact for Migration” [1]. UN General Assembly President stated that she is committed to strive towards gender parity within the General Assembly and gender equality in its outcomes. (Address by President, Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces UNGA on 15th January, 2019 in New York to the UN Member States). As a Gender Champion, Ms. Espinosa’s third priority focuses on gender equality and women’s empowerment. She has reiterated that she is committed to strive towards gender parity within the General Assembly and gender equality in its outcomes, starting from her good Office where gender equality is a reality” [1]. related to the creation of decent work opportunities, President, UNGA spotlighted the need to build on the momentum created around the review of Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG 8) in the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as well as the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO) [1].

Protecting the environment

Ms. Espinosa, President, UNGA has accorded fifth priority to protect the environment. Nearing the first milestones of the 2030 Agenda, she committed to encouraging all participants to work collectively on climate and environmental action, as “more needs to be done to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.”  According to her, “We need to see climate change response as an opportunity to set a course for a better future for human beings and towards a greener, cleaner and more sustainable world”, particularly as it “is accelerating faster than our efforts to address it”. On plastic pollution, she asked for partners in “walking the talk” by reducing single use plastics within missions and at UN facilities. Under the rights of persons with disabilities, her sixth priority, she said that a Steering Committee on Accessibility at the UN had been launched on the eve of the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. Moreover, she has also planned to launch the campaign for the Universal Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during January 2019 and to host a High-Level Event on Persons with Disabilities in June 2019. For her final priorities, i.e. ‘peace and security’, the UN Assembly President said that she would seize on, or take advantage of, all existing mandates and events” to promote issues related to conflict prevention, peace building and sustaining peace” to build more “peaceful and resilient societies [1].


The research study adopts conceptual approach, literature review and highlighting of major activities that are being undertaken by the UNGA to protect the global multilateral trading system and the global environment. It deals with aspects relating to RTAs, the UNGA voting system and studies the linkages of RTAs with the UNGA Voting system. Though the methodology adopted is very theoretical in approach, but so far as literature review and conceptual aspects and its studies are concerned, the paper attempts to build up and develop multifarious approaches to analyze not only the world trade and multilateral system, but also to establish certain meaningful linkages between the world trade with that of the RTAs on the one hand and the world political, economic and social systems on the other. In fact, this methodological approach would definitely go a long way in developing integrated, fair, just and inclusive global societies which could bind together all the economies to attain the SDGs slated by United Nations by the turn of 2030.         


International trade now-a-days both in goods and services is increasingly facilitated by the growth and development of e-commerce policies and their respective channels. Although most e-commerce involves business-to-business transactions, the diffusion of information and communications technologies (ICTs) among consumers has increased the importance of business-to-consumer e-commerce transactions. UNCTAD valued the total business-to-consumer e-commerce at nearly $3 trillion. Most of those transactions remain within the national economy. Cross-border business-to-consumer e-commerce is still relatively low. UNCTAD estimates that cross-border business-to-consumer e-commerce was worth about $189 billion in 2015, which corresponded to 7 per cent of total business-to-consumer e-commerce. China, the United States and the European Union are the leaders in cross-border business-to-consumer e-commerce, accounting for about $40 billion each. Cross-border business-to-consumer transactions are expected to grow substantially in the coming years, owing mainly to the further diffusion of ICTs. This is likely to have several implications for both trade and the development agenda, including, but not limited to, the development of infrastructure serving business-to-consumer transactions. The diffusion of ICTs particularly in the LDCs would definitely contribute in achieving the SDGs slated by United Nations in the long-run.

The Least Developed Countries Export Challenge

The least developed countries moved further away from attaining target 17.11 in 2017. Since 2014, their share in global exports has declined, largely as a result of a drop in exports of natural resources. In fact, natural resources are one of the critical components, without which the various economies including the LDCs would be unable to achieve the SDGs slated by UN. This is due to the lack of structural transformation in these economies. As of 2017, least developed countries represented 0.93 per cent of global exports. For least developed countries to achieve target 17.11, this share would need to increase by about 33 per cent per year. A coherent and a prudent macroeconomic and trade policy approach are needed to foster structural transformation and attain sustainable export growth. While that challenge is significant for least developed countries taken together, there is considerable heterogeneity among them. Seven least developed countries, situated in Africa and Asia, had already achieved target 17.11 as of 2017 or could be expected to achieve it by 2020 given their current export growth. Another 11 countries have achieved significant growth but stayed below the levels required to double their share by 2020. Of the remaining countries, 6 conserved their 2011 share in global exports and 20 had significant negative growth. An important constraint on exports of least developed countries has been the countries’ reliance on natural resources. The natural resources in these economies remain untapped and unexploited which augments further economic growth and development. The LDCs need to address the issue of tapping the natural resources and its exploitation for commercial use. The export value of these goods has declined for all exporters in recent years owing to depressed external demand and falling prices. The exports of commodity-dependent least developed countries have been hit particularly hard by this evolution. Agricultural exports and the least developed countries’ share in such exports have grown modestly. Textiles and apparel were key drivers of progress towards target 17.11 of least developed countries, increased not only the export value of textiles and apparel, but also their share in global exports, and are on good track to double that share by 2020. Structural transformation and productive capacity are essential to reducing the vulnerability of commodity-dependent exporting least developed countries to external price and demand shocks. However, effective market access also continues to represent and act as barrier to increasing exports of least developed countries. Sustainable Development Goal target 17.12 calls for duty-free and quota-free market access for all least developed countries and transparent and simple rules of origin. UNCTAD, in its research has shown that issues such as non-tariff measures, logistics, connectivity and trade facilitation can represent more significant barriers to exports than tariffs. To ensure that least developed countries increase their export share until 2020 and beyond, coherence among different policy areas is needed and should be supported by strengthened global partnerships, which makes the multilateral trading system an essential public good, suitable and instrumental in achieving the SDGs.

International Trade Prospects for 2018

Most forecasts indicated that global economic growth continued to be sound in 2018 at about 4 per cent. Trade growth need to increase, as the historic correlation between trade and economic growth is expected to remain despite a recent uncoupling. Barring any major global economic shocks, cyclical factors such as trends in consumption expenditures and the commodity cycle should continue contributing to trade growth in the short term. However, the rapid increase in trade policy uncertainty observed recently, both at the national and multilateral levels, may adversely affect international trade and investment, as commitment to a framework of rules that provide businesses with a predictable economic environment is essential for international trade.

Activities of UNGA (Report of UNGA, 2019, New York)

  • 29 January 2019: In collaboration with the UN Foundation, the first meeting of the Group of Gender Equality Leaders was kicked off to accelerate women’s empowerment.
  • 31 January 2019: UNGA President along with the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), briefed Member States on aligning both body’s work with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • 4 February 2019: Meeting held with former General Assembly presidents on the theme: “Revitalization of the United Nations in favour of a strengthened multilateral rules-based system” to craft recommendations for a UN that delivers effectively and efficiently for the people.
  • 14 February 2019: Convened a joint briefing with the Special Envoy for the Climate Summit to outline the roadmap for preparations towards the Climate Summit in September.
  • 19 February 2019: Meeting with mayors and others under the theme: “From Global Issues to Local Priorities: The role of Cities in the Global Agenda, including Cities for Sustainable Development, Food Security, Nutrition and Climate Change” to share experiences of effective local practices and strategies to address global challenges, such as climate change, food security and malnutrition.
  • 21-22 February 2019: Organized the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) the 2019 Parliamentary Hearing at the UN, on the theme: “Emerging challenges to multilateralism: a parliamentary response”.
  • 27 February 2019: Organized a High-Level Debate on International Migration and Development.
  • 12 March 2019: Convened a High-Level Event on Women in Power, dedicated to promoting women’s leadership by bringing together senior leaders to share experiences and young women leaders to foster the environment of dialogue.
  • 28 March 2019: Hosted a High-Level meeting on the Protection of the Global Climate for Present and Future Generations of Humankind to pave the way for the Climate Summit.
  • 9 April 2019: In the context of the ECOSOC Youth Forum, conduct of a Town Hall on the linkages between decent work and Youth, Peace and Security.
  • 10 April 2019: In close collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and ECOSOC, convened a High-Level Event on “The Future of Work for Decent Work”.
  • 24 April 2019: Host a High-Level Event on the International Day on Multilateralism to exchange views on its role with diplomacy in advancing of the UN’s three pillars of sustainable development, peace and security and human rights.
  • 27 April 2019: Organize with Norway and Antigua and Barbuda during its annual ‘Sailing Week’, a festival to raise awareness, celebrate successes, and push forward progress to address plastic pollution.
  • 13 September 2019: Organize, a High-Level Event on Culture of Peace to shine a light on the observance of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.
  • September 2019: High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) would be convened for the first time under the auspices of the General Assembly (HLPF Summit).

Meeting organized by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to achieve SDGs

Ms. Espinosa, President, UNGA outlined the work the Assembly had already achieved  beginning with the “unprecedented” number of world leaders at the 2018 general debate, which sent “a strong message” in support of multilateralism and the Organization. According to the President, UNGA who noted that in Marrakesh, “UN had adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”, and also the “so-called rulebook” for the Paris Agreement at the Climate Conference in Poland. Among others, she conducted a one-day High-Level Meeting on Middle-Income Countries that yielded concrete recommendations to address gaps in implementing the 2030 Agenda; launched a series of Morning Dialogues with Ambassadors on thematic issues challenging the Organization and appointed 28 co-facilitators and co-chairs, almost 60 per cent of whom are women.

Multilateral Cooperation and International Trade: A System to be Protected and Sustained

The recent waning of political and popular support for trade integration among some nations has affected the outlook for multilateral trade cooperation. Greater trade integration, including greater mobility of people, is increasingly seen by some parties as causing inequalities, social tensions and disintegration. The extent of trade discontent is such that the very existence of the trading system, and the case for multilateral cooperation on trade, are being questioned, which has led to significant course correction, setbacks and the renegotiation of existing and proposed trading arrangements. These have included the ongoing Brexit negotiations, the withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, setbacks in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States of America and the European Union, and negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement and other free trade agreements, such as that between the Republic of Korea and the United States. A series of unilateral restrictive trade measures announced and implemented by the United States in early 2018 and retaliatory measures announced by affected countries have further jeopardized the prospects for multilateral trade cooperation. There was growing concern that these measures could lead to the further imposition of unilateral measures for contestable policy reasons. UNCTAD, a regional arm of UN in its research has indicated that, in the event of further escalation of such tensions, average tariffs on international trade could increase tenfold, from the current level of about 3 per cent to more than 30 per cent. Moreover, policy uncertainty has already had negative repercussions, for example, particularly on investment flows. In its World Investment Report 2018, UNCTAD has indicated that global foreign direct investment flows fell by 23 per cent in 2017. An escalation and broadening of trade tensions could negatively affect investment in global value chains and thus reduce foreign direct investment, which has been one of the most important and stable sources of financing for developing countries which could be relied upon by the various economies. Multilateral cooperation is the best safeguard against escalating trade tensions. The main concern is that, without the support of the largest economies, the rules-based system of international trade could quickly lose its authority and significance. A shift towards a power-based trading system would not be in the interest of most countries, especially low-income countries including the LDCs, Small Island and landlocked economies. Possible spirals of restrictive and retaliatory trade measures could directly challenge the case for multilateral cooperation and the integrity of the rules-based multilateral trading system. Even if addressed by the Dispute Settlement Mechanism of WTO, the adjudication of such systemically complex and large-scale cases would pose a significant challenge to the global policy planners to implement. The Mechanism has been under pressure owing to the blockage of the appointment of new Appellate Body judges. Paralysis and jeopardy of the Mechanism could significantly affect the credibility and effectiveness of WTO as a global institution, as the Appellate Body has served as the guarantor of effective enforcement of WTO rules and disciplines. Any waning of the credibility of the multilateral trading system would hurt many developing countries, exposing them to an increasingly uncertain trading environment in which they may not be able to advance their development agenda, voice their concerns or have the capacity to effectively retaliate against any protective measures of larger trading nations. In addition, an important negative aspect of the current trade frictions is that they are already diverting attention and multilateral efforts away from initiatives in which multilateral cooperation is most needed, such as managing financial integration, addressing corporate taxation and supporting environmental sustainability. Ultimately, global problems cannot be corrected through unilateral actions but require a concerted effort with attention given to achieving progress on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Areas of Positive Development

Without the credible engagement of the world’s largest trading nation in multilateral cooperative processes, no negotiations on the Doha Development Round are conceivable. Hence, leadership and participation involving all WTO members remain a critical factor and key to the future direction of the multilateral trading system. Discussions could again be launched on ways to strengthen the multilateral trading system through normative, practical or institutional reforms to its modus operandi. In this regard, the WTO members had previously gathered to address issues such as the consensus-based decision-making process; the single undertaking principle; efficiency, inclusiveness and transparency in negotiation processes; the most-favored-nation principle; special and differential treatment; and the development dimension. In a report, WTO had indicated that for the period between mid-October 2016 and mid-October 2017, WTO members applied 108 new trade-restrictive measures, including new or increased tariffs, but also implemented 128 measures aimed at facilitating trade. It is significant that the estimated trade coverage of import-facilitating measures ($169 billion) is more than two times larger than that of import - restricting measures ($79 billion). While such a policy landscape could change if more recent trade restrictive measures were considered, it remains that WTO members continue to abide by WTO disciplines when taking trade policy actions. The heightened uncertainty surrounding the trading system points to the importance of making the case for the multilateral trading system  a system which continues to enjoy legitimacy as the cornerstone of global trade governance and its contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations Member States have repeatedly pronounced their commitment to promoting a universal, rules-based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system, consistent with Sustainable Development Goal target 17.10. Multilateral rules and disciplines are the best guarantee against protectionism and are fundamental to the transparency, predictability and stability of international trade. Despite recurrent setbacks and escalating trade tensions, global support for the general case for trade integration with adequate complementary policies and multilateral trade cooperation remains steadfast and widespread.

Global Development Issues

Special and differential treatment remains a long-standing and central issue for the development dimension of the multilateral trading system. While there is no easy solution, developing countries are seeking to prioritize those provisions that could facilitate policies aimed at industrialization, such as local content requirements under the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures and the provisions of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. On the other hand, the effective implementation of past decisions on special and differential treatment remains a key concern; for example, the full implementation of article 66.2 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which provides incentives for firms to transfer technology to least developed countries, are has yet to be secured. In this context, it is important to ensure effective operationalization of the least developed countries services waiver through the provision of commercially meaningful preferential treatment of services and services suppliers of least developed countries. Building the services capacity of least developed countries and facilitating the recognition of qualifications are also important. While 24 notifications have been made to date regarding preferential treatment for least developed countries under the services waiver, no least developed countries have resorted to such measures due to the peculiar nature, the type and level of vulnerabilities/shocks which the LDCs have been encountering. Increasingly, countries are seeking to capitalize on the services economy and trade to induce structural transformation in order to attain sustainable development. This is even more the case as the achievement of many goals and targets under the Sustainable Development Goals requires universal access to basic, essential services, including health, education, financial, water, environmental, energy, transport and telecommunications and ICT services which would lead to global peace and inclusive societies. Trade is an important source of prosperity, ideas and values for sustainable development. However, it is an accepted proposition and widely recognized that the benefits of trade integration have not been evenly distributed across countries and within societies and have often been concentrated among a few actors, while any adverse effect on inclusiveness and the social and environmental dimensions have essentially been seen as externalities. These uneven outcomes may lie at the root of the recent scepticism on the benefits of globalization and trade and the resurgence of nationalist and isolationist sentiments and policies. As the world seeks to harness the benefits of globalization in realizing the social, economic and environmental goals embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals, it is imperative that trade play its full part, which means both sustaining growth and ensuring consistency with sustainable development. Without policies for sharing prosperity, including through trade and labor adjustment mechanisms, trade may increase inequalities, heighten social tensions and lead to environmental degradation. This would definitely lead to fall in ‘global peace indices’ and lack of inclusive societies. Proactive and coherent policy mixes, bringing together trade, development and industrial, macroeconomic, social and other policy areas need to be mainstreamed into national policy agendas and integrated into the international policy frameworks to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the process and to that extent, it is important to recognize that trade is changing shape in response to technological advances, expanded value chains, new business models and policy innovation. International markets need to be opened up, but also need to be managed to ensure that trade promotes sustainable development. A global partnership is an essential means of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, and a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system would be a central component of such a partnership, as provided under Sustainable Development Goal target 17.10. In a context of rising trade tensions, setbacks in multilateral trade negotiations and burgeoning regional and plurilateral processes, revitalizing the multilateral trading system as a global public good with renewed momentum and relevance is fundamental. This could start with the integration of sustainable development dimensions into trade policy, negotiations and agreements. The United Nations system would definitely remain a major global stakeholder in the multilateral trading system in view of the global development imperative of revitalizing the ‘Global Partnership for Sustainable Development’. It should continue to provide unambiguous support for multilateral trade cooperation and its development and a dimension to realize a global enabling environment for sustainable development. It represents the best guarantee against protectionism and economic nationalism, and could best underpin the transparency, predictability and stability of international trade and international order. Such a system has worked particularly for the benefit of weaker and more vulnerable economies dependent on trade to trigger economic transformation and development which include the LDCs, Small Island and the land locked economies. The United Nations system could usefully support Members’ efforts in charting the way forward to overcome trade scepticism and strengthen trade multilateralism in support of sustainable development.

Trade Deals and United Nations Voting System

Trade deals help make countries vote together in the United Nations. The detailed country analysis of commercial ties and behavior in the UN General Assembly suggests there are evidence of such spillover and the convergence of trade interests influencing the political decisions at the United Nations. Trade has been a topic of discussion in the international forum for decades, and in recent years many policy makers got used to rolling their eyes when they hear another attack on trade rules. At the same time, things on the international foreign policy front have become more pronounced and subject to quite unexpected changes in political moods due to political uncertainties. UNCTAD research shows that as trade binds more countries together, there is a spillover into foreign affairs which affects not only the world economic system, but also the world social system. Soon the reality may be that the countries that broker deals in trade would have a new and louder voice in foreign policy and in international affairs. Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) tie countries together via cooperative trading policy. They provide easier, and cheaper, trade rules for the participating countries, and increase exports to non-member states. But RTAs are becoming more comprehensive. In recent decades, RTAs have spread in both scale and scope. On the scale front, today, every member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is part of at least one RTA. When it comes to scope, there is also a vast expansion, with many RTAs including provisions on labour, development, environment and e-commerce, among others, delivering additional development benefits. The integration of these RTAs into the world economic system has resulted in change in the global trading system. This RTA intensification has provoked opposing views about policies and positions. Some argue that expansion of scope is a consequence of already relatively liberalized multilateral trade and therefore just an attempt to ensure a fairer distribution of trade gains and more stable institutional environment. Others counter that new issues are a step too far from core trade concerns and “overtake” too many topics. Furthermore, they suggest that this impinges on the sovereignty of smaller partners by limiting their ability to apply national policies. The reason for these contradictory opinions is rooted in the assumption that trade policy has a limited impact on issues related to human rights, peace and other issues, all seen as core foreign policy concerns. These issues are typically referred to being part of as central or core foreign policy. Hence, global trade policies need to be designed in such a manner that it is well integrated into the world international and social system so that it could exert sizeable influence in determining the world core foreign and international policies.  

Trade Cooperation has a subtle impact on UN voting

High foreign policy is discussed in the UN General Assembly (UNGA), one of the main arms of the United Nations. The UNGA is a forum for questions that relate to human survival and development. UNGA voting rules are based on the “one country one vote” principle, meaning representation is equal for all. Unlike RTAs, which are brokered by negotiations involving partners that are sometimes very unequal. Because trade policy of which RTAs are a plurilateral form is not discussed in the UNGA, it is generally assumed that trade relationships do not impact decisions there. However, the research shows that this assumption is too simple, offering evidence that countries that sign RTAs start synchronizing their votes in the UNGA. As per the report of UNGA, New York for the period of 1990 to 2015, the spillover of trade policy into UN voting is around 4%. This means that when a typical pair of countries signs an RTA, they register the same vote on 4% of UNGA resolutions. With the average of about 70 resolutions per year voted, this implies that, on average, votes on 2 resolutions will be a “free ride” for negotiators after their countries sign an RTA. The effect varies by the type of vote. Indeed, it is even more striking when one looks at the type of vote cast: while “disagree” votes are relatively rare in the UNGA, the RTA partners are 3-5%% more likely to disagree together. The effect on “agree” votes is half the magnitude i.e. 1-2%; while the possibility of having the same “abstain” vote rises by 10%. This is a first attempt to link trade policy tools specifically the trend to “regionalize” trade beyond WTO multilateral rules to political voting. This link between RTAs and UNGA voting is novel for both political scientists and international trade specialists. It is unexpected because trade agreements are not discussed in UNGA, and apart from some recent issues raised by the UNGA’s Second Committee, which deals with economic and financial issues it rarely brings up issue of trade, leaving it to the WTO and UNCTAD. (Report of UNGA, New York)

Synchronization is stronger among equal trading partners

Having an RTA affect voting patterns does not imply that the biggest trading partner is imposing its point of view. The amount of trade between the RTA signatories rarely matters, and when its effect is significant, it usually decreases the likelihood of a common position at UNGA. It is seen that RTAs have more of a “synchronizing” effect when they are conducted among more equal and relatively smaller countries. Unsurprisingly, of course one finds that the United States adopts a very strong position in the UNGA supporting the existing rich case-based literature on that matter. While the effect in general is more pronounced for countries that sign an RTA within the same region, most of African countries tend to use “abstain” as an alternate vote to “agree”.

Synchronization is higher for deeper forms of RTAs

It is observed that for any country pair signing any agreement since 1990, such voting synchronization has occurred. However, the alignment may be stronger for different types of agreements. The point is that the RTAs are different, as they range from simple tariff reductions in bilateral trade to actually forming a political union. In fact the political union of countries affects the signing of RTAs to a considerable extent. In fact, it has been found that  deeper RTAs result in higher synchronization effects than others. This implies that the more countries bind their trade policy, the more they develop a common position in the UNGA. In the deepest classification of RTAs “economic union” every fourth vote is a “free ride” for negotiators within the RTA bloc. This research provides a roadmap for assessing how a “targeted” trade policy via regional integration can increase political coherence and stability. This has implications and ramifications for the world economic, social and political system. Overall, the effect is stronger for countries that have similar GDP per capita, or different GDP per capita but are based in the same region. Recent years have seen a lot of populist critiques of trade agreements as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). At the same time, the “silent” cooperation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN members has resulted in an improvement of almost all of their major development indicators. ASEAN members have also built up a more common position in the UNGA through a much higher voting alignment. The regions where voting alignment is important, RTAs may have important supporting effects. In Africa, for example, as countries develop their new African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), this may promote solidarity in other fora. The analysis shows that such forward-looking trade policy on the African continent may pave the way to a much more audible common voice in the high foreign policy sphere.

Creative Industries take Centre Stage at Bali Conference

Global conference follows United Nations meeting on how the creative economy can help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Support for the creative economy is forming an increasingly strategic role in countries’ efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, UNCTAD experts and other speakers said and highlighted at a meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in October 2018 [2]. The creative economy includes economic sectors such as advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, computer games, design, fashion, film, performing arts, publishing, R&D, and software production. “The creative industries are a powerful force for not only economic development but also social and cultural change, as these industries are new areas covered under the main umbrella of ‘creative economies’ designed and formulated by UNCTAD, a regional arm of UN”. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, profound culture change is needed on a mass scale. The creative industries can help to achieve this,” according to Marisa Henderson, chief of UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Programme. “It also makes sense to use the creative industries as fertile ground to promote gender issues and alternative voices. In addition, they are a useful calibration tool for managing widening geographic disparities. As such, the creative economy should be given priority and integrated into national economic and development plans to leverage the huge potential for more South-South cooperation.” The conference focused on and touched upon several key themes including the emergence of the creative economy and creative networks as an enabler for sustainable development; opportunities and threats posed by increased automation and digitization and the need for training, retraining, and up skilling for new industry jobs. Further, UNCTAD, a multilateral international organization has also been working with conference planners to develop a programme showcasing how the creative industries can foster economic growth, promote inclusivity and boost sustainable development. It is also leading the drive for a ‘Friends of Creative Economy Group’ as an extension of the UNCTAD Creative Economy Network.

Pacific Islands Build New Economic Links with UNCTAD

UNCTAD office located in Samoa is coordinating a trade and transparency project for Pacific small islands, ahead of a regional free trade agreement coming into force in the second half of 2019. UNCTAD has joined agencies including the United Nations Development Programme, the International Labour Organization and UN Women in new premises in the capital of Samoa to support coordinated multilateral assistance to small island developing states (SIDS) in the Pacific region. According to UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi “Small island states in the Pacific are exposed to natural and economic shocks beyond domestic control. (Opinion of UNCTAD, Secretary-General). “They face specific challenges to compete in the global economy because of their size and isolation from major markets and trade routes.” The UNCTAD office would support an 18-month project to help nine Pacific island countries align their trade and investment rules and regulations with their obligations under a regional free trade deal that enters into force in the second half of 2019 once the ratification process is completed. The deal, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus covers goods, services and investment and was signed by Australia, New Zealand and nine island neighbours Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Negotiations on PACER Plus started in 2009 and concluded in Brisbane in April 2017. According to UNCTAD Secretary General, Dr. Kituyi, “The PACER Plus Programme represents a tailored international joint response to the challenges faced by small islands in the Pacific region by increasing regulatory transparency for trade and investment.(Opinion of UNCTAD Secretary General). “For UNCTAD, this project mobilizes several of the core competencies where UNCTAD can help build capacity,” The project will have a strong focus on gender mainstreaming to ensure trade reduces inequalities between men and women.

Trade portal

The trade and transparency project aims to provide training and technical assistance to Pacific island countries so that they reach the standards set out in PACER. The project aims to strengthen regional integration and competitiveness to create economic opportunities, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises and women entrepreneurs. Together with UNCTAD teams working on automated customs systems, trade and gender aspects, trade facilitation, non-tariff measures, as well as on trade information portals, UNCTAD will coordinate the set-up of the trade portal in Samoa and the organization of national workshops during 2019. The forum brought together 22 national policymakers from Pacific island countries which signed the PACER Plus Agreement, the Oceania Customs Organisation, as well as Australia and New Zealand, which financially support the project.

Spillover of Trade Policy into United Nations General Assembly Voting

Cooperation among nations is most often negotiated or imposed. The impact on commercial policy is direct, but does it affect other policy decisions or not is a moot question. Trade agreement implementation results in higher bilateral trade and other positive economic results for both countries. It might also be expected to have impacts on each country’s economic policies with non-member countries. But common trade policy spills over into voting convergence in the United Nations General Assembly. Signing an RTA introduces voting synchronization between member countries. RTA membership increases overall agreement or disagreement with deeper forms of RTAs leading to higher synchronization. This suggests that the benefits of trade agreements are understated in the literature that only measures economic impact. Trade agreements are not just about trade. They have become increasingly popular, and increasingly complex. They have moved from conventional tariff negotiations to include provisions on labor, development, environment, gender and e-commerce among others. This increase in complexity and frequency made the world more cooperative or more competitive is also a moot question. A cursory look does not reveal any obvious patterns. The United States of America and Canada, for example, have been bound together by trade agreements since 1988. Yet the Softwood Lumber dispute in the WTO has simmered since 2002 and still continues. At the same time, the United States and Canada regularly vote together in non-economic matters. To explore this question, the highest level of foreign policy i.e. the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is consulted. All the countries receive a single vote in the UNGA, voting offers a clear signal of foreign policy positions, and alignment of interests can be directly measured. There are clear political spillovers from trade cooperation. UNGA voting patterns illustrate that countries that cooperate in trade also cooperate in politics. The analysis reflects trade agreements as a tool for political cooperation. UNGA voting patterns between trading patterns change when a trade agreement is enacted. Overall, regional trade agreements (RTAs) make countries more likely to register the same vote in UNGA resolutions. Alignment of voting in the UNGA is not cheap. It is costly for countries to prepare resolutions, conduct plurilateral consultations and lobby. The presence of these preparations increases both the absolute and relative costs of ‘disagree’ votes and makes them relatively rare. Yet, RTAs effects on voting are more pronounced in these ‘disagree’ situations. RTA partners vote in against motions together in a number of votes. This nuance provides further significance to the relationship that is found. Another dimension of the argument is that deeper forms of RTAs have greater impacts on voting synchronization. This result is strongest for Customs Unions, where overall voting synchronization increases among the RTA members and also increases for the disagree votes [2-14].

High versus Low Foreign Policy     

The debate that underpins is about the relationship between foreign policy and economic policy. Most often, economic policy is assumed to be an extension of foreign policy. In the above case, it has been disagreed. Voting in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is one venue for foreign policy. Foreign policy enacted in the UNGA is often referred to as ‘High Policy’. This type of policy is generally tied to the preferences of the ruling political coalition and can change when the ruling coalition or its leader changes in some circumstances, economy policy may be used as a form of foreign policy. The United States-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) includes provisions on promotion of ‘higher labor standards and strengthening their cooperation on labor matters’ and promotion of ‘environmental and labor law’ which depicts significant internal policy improvements and their recognition by the United States (United States and Jordan Sign Historic Free Trade Agreement’ for the text of agreement: analysis of the Jordanian policies change in labor and environment laws). As economic policy in the framework of the United Nations is an extension of enactment of a state’s foreign policy, it is often seen as ‘low policy’. Yet unlike political horizons, trade agreements tend to be negotiated over many years before signature and enactment. Based on the publicly available data on UNGA voting outcomes, it is observed that the relationship between economic policy and foreign policy have opposite directions i.e. foreign policy is impacted by economic policy. The intuition behind this logic is straight forward i.e. countries that have RTA are more likely to cooperate in ‘high foreign policy’ because during the negotiation process, countries build links that increase social understanding that impacts issues beyond RTAs. This can influence country’s stance on questions related to the overall well-being of humanity and development.

The Politics of Political Cooperation

Political cooperation literature studies and looks at negotiated cooperation, including negotiations that happen in UNGA. Countries may cooperate to signify their unity (i.e. constructive approach) or to increase their collective bargaining power (rationalist approach). A second type of cooperation is imposed. Domestic constraints of the voting country say a lack of financial capacity limits the ability of countries to develop their own independent position in some questions and hence they can engage in ‘vote buying’ with a relatively more frequent position shift. In that regard, foreign policy has been frequently cited as an important contributor to the voting results of countries in the UNGA. One of the examples is the use of foreign aid in ‘vote buying’ by the United States. The influence of financial constraints and obligations is also found when taking into account that IMF programs and World Bank lending are found to align the voting positions of recipients with the average G-7 country’s voting position.

The Politics of Trade Cooperation

Trade is also used as a political tool. Among others, the European Union has implemented the ‘everything but arms’ initiative and most high-income countries offer trade access to Least Developed Countries through the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). This reflects both negotiated and imposed cooperation. Trade agreements achieve higher levels of economic activity among the signatories and hence in general reciprocal economic gains. Entering into a trade agreement has the capacity to affect the position of the government both economically and politically. Research has shown that FTAs can be used as an internal political stabilization tool as it brings higher robustness of economic links between countries. This robustness transcends the effect of political leader turnover of the country and the ruling party since it shapes a long-term economic relationship. RTAs signify a long-term economic commitment between countries and the presence of their convergence effects on the UNGA voting behavior will imply that there is a spillover from the ‘low’ foreign policy including appropriate economic policies such as signing a trade agreement into ‘high foreign policy’. The hypothesis of voting synchronization resulting from RTA participation does not stand in isolation. There is evidence that trade agreements serve as a soft policy tool for improving members’ human rights for example, by providing the instruments and resources to change actors’ incentives to promote reforms that would not otherwise be implemented. This has a two-fold implication for international policy, implying the higher unanimity of adoption of UNGA resolutions. Second, by signing trade agreements, countries while giving up some sovereignty can achieve better bargaining positions via ‘resource coalitions’. Gaining a ‘common’ voice in the UNGA is specifically notable in case of the developing countries, their quantitative majority in UNGA and the ‘one state on vote’ system can enable their coalitions to have a decisive role in passing resolutions regardless of their current economic or financial capability.

Voting Data

The UNGA is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations established in 1945 and governed by Chapter IV of the United Nations. UNGA members meet each year in sessions that start in September. Because the UNGA votes are transparent and easy to access, they have been a common source of academic work on cooperation in international relations and political science. Some studies follow a set of countries over a long period of annual sessions, others look into the overall effect of macroeconomic assistance. As per the UNGA voting data from 1990-2015, there are approximately 250-300 resolutions that come from UNGA every session, most do not go to a vote and only about a third of resolutions are voted on. Only the resolutions which were voted on are of interest. There are some literatures which have focused only on ‘key votes’ suggesting that countries put more effort into developing positions in these particular cases. Another strand of research has suggested that for most countries, their true preferences are uncovered only in the ‘non-key’ votes. This discrepancy depends on the particular question asked and the empirical methodologies. There are a set of nine broad question areas covering all votes at the UNGA. These are viz; (i) Peace and Security, (ii) Budgetary and Operational Concerns of the United Nations, (iii) Colonization Issues, (iv) Disarmament, (v) The Use of  Nuclear Power and Weapons, (vi) Direct Economic Assistance to Countries, (vii) Israel-State of Palestine, (viii) Human Rights and (ix) Ocean and Maritime. There are four types of vote outcomes in the UNGA: agree, disagree, abstain and absent. ‘Agree’ when in favour of the resolution, ‘disagree’ when in opposition to the resolution or ‘abstain’ when a country neither chooses ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ but is still present at the General Assembly. While ‘abstain’ is a vote outcome that is not counted into the calculation of the decision over resolution, it requires the country to be present, participate in the actual voting and go on record with their decision on the vote. There is also an option of not attending the session i.e. ‘absent’ from the vote. This can be deliberate or non-deliberate. Sometimes, certain countries miss certain votes on purpose and report their position later and such cases are called ‘missing observations’. For the resolution to be accepted, it usually requires a simple majority of the voting members (implying exclusion from calculation of the non-voting countries and abstaining countries). The other typical voting is a supermajority, which requires 2/3 of voting members for a resolution to pass. The questions that require supermajority are usually related to the issues of peace and security. There is a bimodal trend in distribution of votes which shows the distribution of the share of ‘Agree’ votes in overall voting results. As the UNGA membership has expanded, more countries need to vote ‘agree’ to pass the resolution with the supermajority. The relative rarity of negative votes ‘abstain votes outnumber ‘disagree’ votes makes negative voting synchronization more revealing of the political stance of a country. Both ‘abstain’ and ‘disagree’ vote outcomes are signs of not accepting a resolution, but as only ‘disagree’ counts into the final decision, it is a more sound indication of political position of the country.

Trade and Regional Data and Voting Similarity Index

RTA-based trade has been expanding over the last decades both in number of relationships and value and there is a vast literature that looks on the formation and evolution of RTAs. Engaging into regional trade policy through participating in RTAs for any pair of countries will result in a higher similarity of UNGA voting patterns. RTAs are most commonly a multilateral occurrence, going beyond a bilateral relationship.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Though the research study has assessed the impact of trade policy on foreign policy, but it is difficult to measure this due to political factors. The less obvious benefits of trade policy are political cooperation. For a Government seeking to leave a legacy, trade is the way to go and can encourage future leaders to follow globally accepted norms and values. The policy implications are that the benefits of RTAs may be understated. Traditionally the benefits of trade agreements are measured using economic indicators. The second aspect is that signing an RTA has positive effect on the political stability between the countries. It may not be out of place to mention that though the UNGA, being a global multilateral organization, has been adopting a unique, fair and transparent voting system for all the participating countries globally who are signatories to the UN System and the UNGA in particular, the developed countries particularly the United States and the OECD countries always exercise and impose their rights and play a dominant role in the UNGA. This affects the growth and development of the developing countries which are also the stakeholders to the UNGA and have also been determining the world economic, social and political systems including the foreign policies in a sizeable manner in the UNGA.  While it may be a stretch to prescribe conflicting economies to sign trade agreements, it implies that countries that do sign trade agreements have lower possibility of conflicts. The ASEAN has followed such a doctrine by allowing states with non-democratic political regimes into the regional agreement. The analysis suggests that such cooperation may also smooth voting patterns in the UNGA, implying a moderating political effect on some regimes. The third is that as more countries bind together into mega regionals like the former TPP, international cooperation may become less contentious. This is a very forward looking view and well into the future. The paper concludes that the enhancement of trade and optimum voting behaviour of stakeholder economies would lead to promotion of economic, trade and foreign policies and the improvement of the world social, cultural and political systems. This would go a long way in promoting SDGs slated by United Nations.


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