WTO appellate body members discuss the future of the organization
On September 23, American University’s College of Law and The German Marshall Fund hosted a panel discussion on the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The panel included Jennifer Hillman, GMF Senior Transatlantic Fellow and WTO Appellate Body member; Ambassador Julio Lacarte Muro, first chairman and member of the WTO Appellate Body and former Chair of the Uruguay Round Negotiations; Debra Steger, Professor of Law at University of Ottawa; Professor John Jackson, Director of the Institute of International Economic Law at GULC; Jeffery Schott, Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute; and Padideh Ala’i, Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law.
The panelists addressed the questions such as “Is the WTO ready to meet the challenges of the 21st Century?,” “Are reforms needed to the WTO decision making and dispute settlement mechanisms to make the organization more legitimate, accountable and effective?,” “Will the ‘success’ of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism be maintained in the face of new and complex challenges such as climate change, energy and financial crises?.”
The panelists pointed out the fact that it has become increasingly difficult to forge consensus at the WTO among an expanding membership. It was noted that a major cause is the shift of global economic power to emerging economies in Asia and Latin America. Consensus based decision-making did not pose a challenge during the GATT era since world economic power was concentrated within the transatlantic area. This shift has caused both advanced and emerging economies to become more entrenched in their negotiation positions, paralyzing decision-making as observed within the stalled Doha Round. In her remarks, GMF’s Senior Transatlantic Fellow Jennifer Hillman pointed out that inconclusive multilateral trade negotiations over the past 10 years have led to a significant increase in the number of regional and bilateral free trade agreements, which pose a direct threat to the multilateral trading system and the founding principles of the WTO.
In their closing remarks, the speakers noted that multilateral trade deals will have to become more inclusive, by addressing subsidy problems such as agriculture and civilian aviation, in order to prevent a further shift toward regionalism and to re-establish the effectiveness of the multilateral trading system.
Please click here to listen to the podcast of the event.