How Should the EU and Other WTO Members React to Their WTO Governance and WTO Appellate Body Crises?
23 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2018
Date Written: December 2018
Since 2017, the United States (US) and other World Trade Organization (WTO) members violate their legal duties and democratic mandates given by national parliaments to maintain the WTO Appellate Body (AB) as legally prescribed in Article 17 of the WTO Dispute Understanding (DSU), i.e. as being ‘composed of seven persons’, with vacancies being ‘filled as they arise’. This contribution argues that none of the reasons offered by the US for its blocking of the (re)appointment of AB candidates - on grounds unrelated to the personal qualifications of the candidates - can legally justify its disruptions of the WTO legal and dispute settlement system. Also the European Union (EU) has offered no convincing justification of its failure to protect ‘strict observance of international law’ in it external relations, as required by Article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty on European Union (TEU) and by Article IX:1 WTO Agreement (‘where a decision cannot be arrived at by consensus, the matter at issue shall be decided by voting’). The 2018 ‘Concept Paper’ prepared by the EU Commission on ‘WTO modernization’ indicates no strategy for the obvious problem that the EU objective of ‘preserving and deepening the rules-based multilateral system’, including ‘more effective and transparent dispute settlement including the Appellate Body’, is inconsistent with the US strategies underlying US blocking of the AB jurisdiction by preventing the appointment of AB judges, a strategy which was previously applied by the US for blocking third-party adjudication under Chapter 20 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trade diplomats have no democratic mandate for disrupting the AB jurisdiction by illegally reducing the number of AB members to one single judge by December 2019 and, thereby, undermining the WTO legal and dispute settlement system. EU trade diplomats must exercise leadership for using the existing legal powers and duties of the WTO Ministerial Conference and General Council under Article IX:1 WTO – if necessary, based on ‘a majority of the votes cast’ - to initiate and complete the WTO selection procedures for filling AB vacancies and protect the AB as legally defined in Article 17 DSU. Article IX.2 could be used for authoritative interpretations ‘taken by a three-fourths majority of the Members’ confirming the collective duties of WTO members to fill AB vacancies in case of illegal blocking of AB nominations. WTO law foresees similar majority decisions for the appointment of the WTO Director-General; such majority decisions are necessary for preventing illegal de facto amendments of the WTO legal system, and do not set a precedent for future WTO majority voting on discretionary, political issues, which most WTO diplomats reject as a ‘nuclear option’. As suggested by European ordo-liberalism, citizens and democratic institutions must hold trade politicians democratically and legally more accountable for complying with their legislative mandates to implement and modernize, but not to destroy WTO law and dispute settlement.
Keywords: Appellate Body; competition rules; governance crisis; ordo-liberalism; WTO
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