WTO Members have discussed WTO reform since the collapse of the WTO Appellate Body (AB) in 2019, which was caused mainly by the US opposition to appointing new AB members. The US attacked the AB for its performance and its interpretation of WTO rules. The US has also consistently criticized the WTO’s incapability to reach agreements and reform itself. Nonetheless, this Western discomfort towards the organisation and the AB began at the Third Ministerial Meeting in Seattle (1999) when developing countries opposed the Global North’s attempt to open new trade negotiations. This push continued during the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha(2001), where the membership loosely agreed on a mandate for “Global and Sustainable Development”, albeit one without clear expectations to cut a deal in line with such a mandate of achieving a fair balance between trade and development at the multilateral trading system. One ministerial conference after the other, there was a failure to agree on Western driven “Development Agenda” until the Members agreed on the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the agricultural subsidies exports prohibition in Bali (2013) and Nairobi (2015), respectively. However, and even after the collapse of the AB, a criticised agreement on fishery subsidies (2022) was reached with a sunset clause of 5 years, making it in turn a chimera because of the short term.
WTO Dispute Settlement System
The World Trade Organization (WTO) stands as a cornerstone of the global trade architecture, fostering cooperation and negotiation among its diverse membership. At the heart of its operations lies the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM), a rules-based system designed to ensure fair resolution of trade disputes. However, as a rules-based system for global trade, DSM faces a challenge of representation of its diverse parts encompassing regional disparities, differences in legal traditions, and gender imbalances that impinge on its ability to serve the needs of all its members and maintain its legitimacy. This blog post critically examines these issues and proposes strategies to enhance diversity and representation within the DSM, bolstering its legitimacy and ability to fulfil its overarching objectives.
On 11 December 2023, it will be four years since the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Appellate Body (AB) was fully functional. Indeed, on 11 December 2019, the terms of two Appellate Body Members (ABMs), Amb. Ujal Singh Bhatia and Mr. Thomas R. Graham, expired. This left Dr. Hong Zhao as the sole ABM in a paralysed AB until 30 November 2020 when her term ended. With this, came the fall of a unique institution in international dispute settlement and the weakening of the WTO's dispute settlement system (DSM), which has been termed the WTO's "crown jewel". The AB's demise was triggered by the United States' (US) refusal to permit the appointment of ABMs. The US has very vocally and consistently stated that the AB had, essentially, become a law unto itself and overstepped its legal mandates set out in the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU) and as a subordinate institution of the Dispute Settlement Body.
The Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo is hosting a webinar/seminar on global constitutionalism, international adjudicative bodies, and hegemony on 16-17 November 2023.
This article provides interesting insights on the jurisdiction of the Southern African Development Community ("SADC") Tribunal. It also considers the impact of this jurisdiction on the settlement of disputes within the SADC region. The article also considers the extent to which the removal of private access from the Tribunal's jurisdiction affects the settlement of trade disputes within SADC; , and whether the Tribunal is reconcilable with the World Trade Organization ("WTO")'s dispute settlement mechanism, which is regarded as being one of the salient features of the international trading regime.
Several Members still consider that a serious consideration of the Interim Arbitration Proposal weakens any efforts to strengthen the Appellate Body or the ongoing DSU reforms. In that context, and even if this proposal is only ad hoc in nature, several procedural and technical issues need to be addressed before serious deliberations can take place.
The lack of participation of African states in the WTO dispute settlement system is indicative to a certain extent of the discomfort that most African states feel vis-à-vis the said system. A future reform of the DSU must necessarily include procedural and substantive aspects to render dispute settlement more flexible for African countries.
We are looking for hosts among universities, student associations or NGOs with an interest in international trade law and the right infrastructure to provide a successful round
The adoption of imprecise and relaxed SDT provisions that can easily provide leeway for countries to evade SDT obligations will only work contrary to the stated objective of the Agreement to promote and attain sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development among State Parties. Just as Amartya Sen correctly puts it, “the central issue of contention is not globalization itself, nor is it the use of the market as an institution, but the inequity in the overall balance of institutional arrangements—which produces very unequal sharing of the benefits of globalization”