Global trade is down, thanks to a combination of reduced economic activity and a lack of trade finance (thank you, Eurozone). Yes, some more protectionism to boot, but history says trade deals flourish in hard economic times.
Thus the Economist suggests ditching the moribund "Doha development round" (launched 2001) and instead take advantage of the next big WTO meet in Bali in December 2013 to initiate a "global recovery round" that ditches the org's disastrous mantra of "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed." It's simply the reality now that there are too many member states for such an approach.
Yes, regional alternatives are springing up to the WTO global pacts. Some see this as a "retreat" of globalization, but that's a bit dim. The rapid expansion of globalization in recent decades leapfrogged over an insufficient amount of such regional trade pacts, so filling these in now is no setback.
But regional deals in the absence of global ones tend to be too exclusionary to outsiders - unless they're stitched together to avoid that.
So the new WTO philosophy, pushed by head Pascal Lamy, is to make a series of take-it-or-leave-it deals by sectors. Join it if you like, stay out if you don't.
I like the notion.