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 in April.
"It was definitely a worthwhile experience," student Kevin Ladouceur says. "We were surprised it was organized by the students (at the University of St. Gallen), it was very professional, very helpful."
Mr. 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 World Trade Organization. Mr. Ladouceur said he was placed on team Nigeria, while Mr. Turcotte and Ms. Atizado were placed on Team Japan. Ms. David was placed on Team India. The students represented their teams on one of the 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).
Mr. Ladouceur agrees the format puts the students in a position to debate trade issues from a completely different perspective--that of the country they are supposed to be 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," he says. "We wanted to have a taste of that." He points out the experience was a lot of 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, he says. 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.
According to the organizers, the Model WTO serves to provide participating students the opportunity to engage with important global issues in the simulation framework of the WTO. The active involvement of WTO officials, trade professors, institutes and well known non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the field allow for a vivid debate and exchange of creative ideas in the realistic context of the World Trade Organization in Geneva.
"Each country has to have a say, have to have a consensus," he says, "it's strongly based on compromise."
The trip was personally beneficial to the students as well, he says. Ms. Atizado is doing an internship this summer before heading back to Switzerland in the Fall on an exchange. Mr. Turcotte is heading to Singapore next semester, while he is heading to India. While in Geneva he was able to meet people from the city he is going to, Mr. Ladouceur says.
The final day of their trip was spent hiking up a mountain, Mr. Ladouceur says, "we joked we went from sweating to sweating", he says, from sweating in the negotiations to sweating up the side of a mountain. But, he adds, the weather was favourable, "we had really good food and a lot of beer."