A group of graduate students from the Master of Public and International Affairs Program at Glendon College are back home after participating in the oikos Model World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The WTO event took place in April.
“It was definitely a worthwhile experience,” said Kevin Ladouceur. “We were surprised it was organized by the students (at the University of St. Gallen); it was very professional, very helpful.” Ladouceur, along with fellow graduate students Alexandre Turcotte and Rochelle Atizado and undergraduate student Jenny David, were among the more than 70 students from close to 40 countries taking part in the Model WTO. Created in 1997, the Model WTO is a course for students at St. Gallen University who organize and run the six-day event.
Students from around the world are invited to participate in the debates and exchange creative ideas within the context of the WTO. Ladouceur said he was placed on Team Nigeria, while Turcotte and Atizado were placed on Team Japan and David on Team India. The students represented their teams on one of five committees: Committee on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); Committee on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS); Technical Committee on the Rules of Origin (TCRO); Committee on Trade and Development (CTD); and Committee on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS).
Ladouceur said the format put the students in a position to debate trade issues from a completely different perspective – that of the country they are representing. The format of the exercise saw the students negotiating for four days at St. Gallen to come up five commerce proposals. They then moved to WTO headquarters in Geneva to vote on the proposals.
“It’s trying to reproduce the dynamics of negotiations at the WTO,” said Ladouceur. “We wanted to have a taste of that.” He said the experience encompassed many 12-hour days. “We started at eight in the morning and often went to eight at night.”
The WTO experience was different from a lot of the other models, such as the UN or NATO, said Ladouceur, in that the Glendon students have a business/government focus and at the WTO there are no sanctions for countries that don’t comply with the agreements. The Model WTO serves to provide participating students the opportunity to engage with important global issues in the simulation framework of the WTO, according to event organizers. The active involvement of WTO officials, trade professors, institutes and well known non-governmental organizations in the field allowed for a vivid debate and exchange of creative ideas in the realistic context of the WTO.
“Each country has to have a say, has to have a consensus,” said Ladouceur. “It’s strongly based on compromise.” The trip was personally beneficial to the students as well, he said. Atizado is doing an internship this summer before heading back to Switzerland in the fall to take part in an international exchange. Turcotte is heading to Singapore next semester, while Ladouceur is heading to India.
The final day of their trip was spent hiking up a mountain. “We joked we went from sweating to sweating,” said Ladouceur; meaning, from sweating in the negotiations to sweating up the side of a mountain. But, he added, the weather was favourable and they “had really good food.”