Teaching ideas – the World Trade Organisation

I usually find teaching students about the World Trade Organization rather tedious, but have recently discovered a few new resources. The learning objectives or pointers from the DP Economics Syllabus are rather simple.

  1. What are the aims of the WTO?
  2. Explain the successes and failures of the WTO viewed from different perspectives.

The aims of the WTO are relatively easy to understand and I find it is hard to teach these in a dynamic, exciting fashion. In the last month the WTO has created a few good and yet concise videos about the purpose of the organization. (warning: the video seems to stop at 4.48 not sure what is shown beyond this point)

Here are some discussion questions you could use with students.

  1. What is the purpose of common trade rules?
  2. How are trade rules created and by whom?
  3. What was the purpose of the Doha Trade Round in 2001?
  4. How does a trade dispute system work and why would countries take a dispute to the WTO?
  5. Two thirds of WTO members are considered developing nations. Do all groups within the WTO have equal representation and voting rights?

Explaining the successes and failures from different perspectives?

Firstly students can brainstorm the successes and failures of the WTO by researching available media sources eg Google News. The different perspectives part is more difficult. A potential strategy is to break the class into groups representing the various perspectives and conduct a role play or impromptu meeting. Some of the obvious perspectives could include

  • Developed Exporting Nations – Germany
  • Developing countries which are export dependent (Chile for Copper, Ethiopia for Coffee)
  • Developing countries who attempt to export value-added products to developed nations. (Raw materials face relatively lower tariffs, compared to value added products which face substantially higher tariffs)

This video produced from the WTO’s perspective advertises the benefits of aid for trade.

This independent video explains the failures of the WTO

The textbook “Economics for the IB Diploma – Economics” by Ellie Tragakes evaluates the outcomes of the Uruguay Round of WTO negotiations. This round produced a significant reduction in global tariffs of approximately 33%. Ellie explains how experts are critical of how these negotiations failed to create the opportunities for all countries to equally share the benefits of free trade. This would be a good extension reading for students. (Pg 355-357)

This aspect of economics seems to be assessed in the Data Response section of the exams. The only extended response questions I could find relating to the WTO is below.

Evaluate the extent to which the international trading system has contributed to economic growth in developed countries? (November 2002 Q4 HL)

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2 thoughts on “Teaching ideas – the World Trade Organisation

  1. Jason Welker says:

    Great suggestions, Adrew. I’m starting this unit next week with my year 2s… I also always struggle to make the WTO unit interesting. These videos and discussion qeustions help. I also looked back and found an activity I did a few years ago. I had the students research the WTO from its website and creates short audio introductions to the various aspects of the organization. They then were published online: http://welkerswikinomics.com/blog/2007/10/23/the-world-trade-organization-a-podcast-introduction-by-ib-econ-students-at-sas/

    I’m thinking of having my students do something similar again this year…

    • Andrew McCarthy says:

      Glad the videos were useful. Amazing what you find hidden away on these UN/WTO/WorldBank websites. I remembered looking at your podcast summaries and contemplated using them this year, ran out of time tho. Maybe next year

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