WTO faces hurdles in reforming dispute resolution amid optimistic calls for action

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WTO faces hurdles in reforming dispute resolution amid optimistic calls for action
Table of contents
  • The WTO is struggling to appoint a new ambassador for dispute resolution reforms.
  • Negotiations are hampered by consensus requirements among 166 members.
  • Despite challenges, there’s optimism for progress on reforms and negotiations.

Challenges in reviving WTO’s dispute resolution system

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is currently facing major challenges in its efforts to appoint a new ambassador to lead crucial negotiations to rejuvenate its impaired dispute settlement system by the end of the year. Despite the urgent need for such an appointment, efforts have stalled as three ambassadors, including those of Botswana and Honduras, have rejected the post due to its demanding nature. In addition, the WTO is unable to resolve many trade disputes. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the US has been blocking the appointment of judges since 2019, meaning that the Appellate Body is inactive and many trade disputes worth billions remain unresolved.

Optimism amidst stalled negotiations

Despite these challenges, the WTO was able to record some minor successes at its recent meeting in Abu Dhabi, even if it failed to reach important global agreements. The difficulty of reaching agreement among all 166 members was obvious. Some countries expressed their frustration at the “abuse” of consensus decisions. However, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala remains optimistic and urges member countries to continue their efforts to reform dispute settlement and reduce fisheries subsidies. The WTO is focused on regrouping and reinvigorating discussions to resolve unfinished business as quickly as possible and overcome obstacles to consensus-based decision-making.

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