The Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) of the World Trade Organization will be held on December 10-13 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The meeting of this highest decision-making body of the WTO, which meets at least once every two years, is taking place at a critical moment of the free trade movement. WTO and free trade are threatened by the emergence of protectionist and anti-trade sentiments amongst many of the organisation's 164 members, and squabbling among the world's largest traders, including the USA, China, and even the generally free-trade oriented European Union. If countries lower the tariff rates against imports and refrain from imposing non-tariff barriers against trade, it benefits free trade and promotes growth.
The United Kingdom is now in the midst of a Shakespearean dilemma, “to stay or not to stay”. Voters will decide in a referendum on June 23 whether to stay in the European Union or to break the four decades old relationship they forged, i.e. opt for “Brexit” as it is popularly known. If the majority decides to leave, it will have implications for Britain across the spectrums, political, economic, and social. While in the last referendum on this issue in 1975, an overwhelming 68 percent of the electorate had decided to stay, this time the margin will be narrower, one way or the other. Britain's departure from the EU will also undoubtedly set a bad example for advocates of Customs Union, an economic arrangement of sovereign countries set up to facilitate trade and economic integration through trade.