World Trade Organization (WTO)

Essentials of Trade Policy in Africa – The Repertoire

In the pecking order of cabinet ministries, Trade and Industry tends to come close to the bottom. What is more, is that Trade and Industry Ministries typically get allocations of less than 1 percent of national budgets. No wonder, then, that ecosystems don’t exist that would facilitate production and trade of high-value, transformative products with high impact in the broader economy. Yet, the rhetoric about export-led development is ceaseless. This is certainly the case in practically all African countries.

Who Owns the Crown, the Wearer or the Bearer?

As this symposium and a plethora of literature have no doubt illustrated over the last few years, the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) famed Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) is at a critical stage of its development. Some have referred to this stage as a crossroads – and with good reason – but I think it is more of a magic roundabout. Whichever way we look at it, there is so much at stake no matter which direction the DSB takes by the end of this crisis. One lesser discussed factor is the all-important question of participation, representation and diversity in the dispute resolution process.

Embracing Representation and Diversity in the WTO Dispute Settlement Processes

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.

Why Compulsory Jurisdiction Must be Non-Negotiable

Dispute settlement reform is a priority for World Trade Organisation (WTO) Members as the thirteenth Ministerial Conference (known as ‘MC13’) in February 2024 rapidly approaches. With no sign of consensus among the Members of what a functioning dispute settlement must look like there is a growing feeling in Geneva that the WTO’s crisis is reaching a tipping point: ‘it is reform or die’.

Shifting the Goalposts: US-Led WTO Reforms of the Dispute Settlement Mechanism

The introduction of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 was considered a historic milestone for the rules-based trade order instituted in the aftermath of World War II. In particular, the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM), a rules-based dispute settlement system designed to ensure fair resolution of trade disputes among WTO members, was hailed as a "crown jewel" of the new system. Although not devoid of criticism, the two-tier system of the DSM had a relatively excellent start to life. Considered one of the most active international dispute mechanisms, especially since the turn of the millennium, the DSM has handled 621 disputes brought to the organisation, with over 350 rulings issued since its inception in 1995. However, the system's success has waned in recent years, effectively "grinding to a halt" with the U.S. spearheading its sabotage. Although the US was a major architect for its introduction in 1995, it opposed the appointment of new Appellate Body members, through successive US administrations and there are now no Appellate Body members since 2019. The demise of the Appellate Body created an impasse in the WTO that is yet to be resolved despite several efforts from WTO members. A primary criticism of the current system by the U.S. is that the Appellate Body has overstepped its limits and created new rules not envisaged by the WTO, an approach that the U.S. maintains does not support its interests. In this analysis, we argue that the proposed reforms to the WTO's DSM by the U.S. are self-serving, aligning with a consistent pattern of hegemonic powers shifting the goalposts and changing the rules when they face adverse consequences—the "bite"—of a regime they erstwhile championed.

NEWS: 06.28.2023

The News and Events category publishes the latest News and Events relating to International Economic Law relating to Africa and the Global South. Every week, Afronomicslaw.org receive the News and Events in their e-mail accounts. The News and Events published every week include conferences, major developments in the field of International Economic Law in Africa at the national, sub-regional and regional levels as well as relevant case law. News and Events with a Global South focus are also often included.

Symposium Introduction: Critical and Contextual Perspectives on International Economic Law: Amplifying the Voices of African Students and Early-Career Researcher

We hope the papers in this symposium will contribute to the ongoing efforts worldwide to achieve epistemological and methodological diversity in the IEL discipline. As a new Forum, we aim to remain flexible, experimental and responsive to the changing landscape in IEL. We will like to take this opportunity to thank the academics who have supported the Academic Forum over the last two years. We hope we can continue to count on your support as we devise robust and practical ways to decolonise and pluralise IEL research, scholarship and practice as a counterpoint to the dominant Western-centric IEL imagination.

Book Review: Patents, Human Rights, and Access to Medicines

The book discusses the manner in which patent rights adversely affect access to medicines by developing countries and proposes ways to mitigate this. From the author’s point of view, the current international patent rights system as embodied in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) is too concerned with protecting the interests of innovators at the expense of all other users. In this way, the TRIPS Agreement, by introducing mandatory minimum and stronger standards for the protection of patent rights, has provided an incentive for pharmaceutical companies to charge inflated prices while concentrating their investments mainly towards diseases that affect developed countries. Further, the TRIPS Agreement has diminished the policy space available for developing countries to design patent regimes that are suitable for their developmental and technological needs and circumstances.

NEWS: 6.16.2022

The News and Events published every week include conferences, major developments in the field of International Economic Law in Africa at the national, sub-regional and regional levels as well as relevant case law.

Symposium on the Economic Impacts of Data Localisation in Africa: Personal Data Protection and Economic Integration: Options for AfCFTA Negotiators

Rules on cross-border data flows are no exception to this general trend. Moreover, given that the WTO rulebook was mostly written in the 1990s prior to the rise of the data driven economy, multilateral trade rules by and large do not regulate cross-border data flows, a fact which has contributed to rules on this front – demand for which has only increased as economies have become more data intensive – being set nationally and even sub-nationally, but also regionally, and in PTAs and FTAs. At the same time, trends such as the rise of what is often referred to as ‘surveillance capitalism’ has brought the issue of personal data protection on privacy grounds into sharper focus around the world. With this background context in place, this essay looks at the intersection of economic integration and personal data protection with a view to informing ongoing debates on what AfCFTA rules on cross-border data flows might look like.