Reforming WTO Conflict Management. Why and How to Improve the Use of 'Specific Trade Concerns'
33 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2020
Date Written: August 1, 2020
With its dispute settlement system in peril, the role of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in mitigating commercial conflict is more important than ever, but its working practices need reform, notably procedures for discussing trade concerns. The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) committees have developed a mechanism for representatives to raise “specific trade concerns” (STCs) about laws, regulations, or practices by their trading partners. These can mitigate sources of friction and help avoid recourse to formal dispute settlement.
This article assesses experience with STCs and assesses suggestions for reform of the process and its extension to all WTO committees. The important WTO reform question is whether procedural changes in Geneva can make STCs more effective for all members while facilitating enhanced participation by members who do not now make full use of the possibilities that such procedures offer.
Keywords: Trade conflict, dispute settlement, transparency, international trade cooperation, WTO reform
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