Nov 13, 2020 06:04 PM

Caixin Summit: Pandemic Revealed ‘Terrible Deficiencies’ in International Cooperation, Former WTO Head Says

Pascal Lamy
Pascal Lamy

The former head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has said that the Covid-19 pandemic revealed a global trust deficit and that civil society, rather than states, could help rebuild the trust needed to respond to future crises.

Speaking at the Caixin Summit on Thursday via video link, Pascal Lamy, director-general of the WTO from 2005 to 2013, said the shock of the new coronavirus revealed “terrible deficiencies” in the ability of sovereign states and multilateral institutions to cooperate in battling the deadly virus.

“A lot of competition, very little cooperation,” Lamy said. “Where is the G-7 Group in the Covid crisis? Where is the G-20? Where is the UN Security Council?” he asked.

“Even a big international organization like the World Health Organization has been attacked,” he said, “So they recognize this [lack of cooperation].”

However, Lamy said there has been “a high level of cooperation efforts doing things together on the ground, people to people, school to school, hospital to hospital and village to village.”

“People have taken this problem at their level. And they’ve sometimes been formidably efficient at dealing with this Covid shock,” Lamy said.

Lamy said that “Building on what all local cities, people, NGOs, businesses, academic systems can do together, [we can] reconstruct a proper base of trust on which we can build more international governance.”

The 73-year-old Frenchman is also president of the Paris Peace Forum, a Paris-based NGO that aims to connect global leaders with civil society and the private sector for action on international issues.

He added that this approach could also help tackle various issues including the environment and trade frictions.

“[Working with] purpose-led coalitions in areas like the environment, culture, the governance of the internet, cybersecurity and economic and social development, doing it with more diverse stakeholders — that’s the way to go,” he said.

Contact reporter Lu Zhenhua ( and editor Joshua Dummer (

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