Harsha Vard­hana Singh, deputy director-​​general at the World Trade Orga­ni­za­tion, empha­sized the impor­tance of the mul­ti­lat­eral trading system by quoting Pres­i­dent Obama from his remarks at the 2009 G20 eco­nomic summit: “We are living through a time of global eco­nomic chal­lenges that cannot be met by half mea­sures or the iso­lated efforts of any nation.”

Singh — speaking to nearly 150 people Thursday night in the Snell Engi­neering Building — also cited esti­mates that by 2030, devel­oping coun­tries will con­tribute two-​​thirds of global growth and half of the global output. Emerging mar­kets, he said, are cre­ating major inter­link­ages and new busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties worldwide.

This greater need to rely on the mul­ti­lat­eral trading system arises due to new emerging cen­ters of eco­nomic impor­tance in the world,” Singh said as part of the Center for Emerging Mar­kets’ Dis­tin­guished Speaker Series.

The center is a clear­ing­house for the latest ideas on busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties springing up in devel­oping inter­na­tional mar­kets around the world — such as China, Brazil and India — and has given the Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion a strong voice on such issues of global importance.

The center’s director, Ravi Rama­murti, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Inter­na­tional Busi­ness and Strategy, intro­duced Singh by high­lighting his 18 years at the WTO and his pre­vious work as an eco­nomic advisor at the Telecom Reg­u­la­tory Authority of India, where he said Singh “helped create the wire­less rev­o­lu­tion that has trans­formed the country.”

If you look at the long haul and what WTO has accom­plished, it’s done a mar­velous job opening up the global economy to free trade, and more impor­tantly bringing sta­bility and pre­dictability to the system,” Rama­murti said.

For his part, Singh said the inter­con­nec­tions between busi­nesses and coun­tries world­wide will only become more enhanced in the future. He said the WTO plays an impor­tant role in addressing the global chal­lenges that have come with the onset of glob­al­iza­tion and emerging mar­kets, such as poverty and the struggle to give workers the skill sets to leverage tech­no­log­ical advances. These chal­lenges also relate to the envi­ron­mental effects of global trade, a growing middle-​​class world­wide, and rising energy and food costs, he said.

The major chal­lenge we face today is how to manage the tran­si­tion from the present period that com­bines these immense changes in the inter­na­tional scene to a period that will bring greater syn­er­gistic and sup­portive busi­ness means across mul­tiple nations. This will require a mul­ti­lat­eral trading system,” he said.

Singh said it is a daunting prospect to think about bringing mul­ti­lat­eral solu­tions to the chal­lenges cre­ated by glob­al­iza­tion and emerging mar­kets. But he brought his lec­ture full circle by closing his remarks with another quote, this time from former South African Pres­i­dent Nelson Mandela.

It always seems impos­sible until it is done,” Singh said.