WTO REFORM: The light shed by recent papers on the role of the Secretariat is welcome, but there are unanswered questions
By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED AUGUST 22, 2022 | UPDATED SEPTEMBER 28, 2022
Does the WTO Secretariat have too much influence over WTO dispute settlement rulings? Two experts argue controversially in recent papers that it does, backing their claims with sophisticated analysis of writing styles to detect who might have authored the rulings.
The analysis by Joost Pauwelyn (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva) and Krzysztof Pelc (McGill University, Montreal) also digs down in detail into the reasons behind the role that the Secretariat has been given.
That leads to a discussion covering a wide range of issues, some of them central to the debate about reforming the WTO and its dispute settlement system — including the controversy over whether case history and precedent should have a bearing on new rulings, and to what extent that should be guided by the institutional knowledge of Secretariat staff.
Continue reading “Does ‘holding the pen’ give WTO staff too much power over disputes?”
A group of WTO members have agreed on an alternative way to get a second legal opinion
By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED AUGUST 4, 2020 | UPDATED DECEMBER 21, 2022
On August 3, 2020, a group of 50 World Trade Organization members — 30% of the membership — announced that an alternative arrangement was up and running, as a means of getting round a blockage preventing formal appeals in WTO dispute settlement.
Developed gradually since early 2019, the system would retain countries’ ability to get a second opinion after a first-stage “panel” ruling, through arbitration instead of going through the non-functioning Appellate Body.
But unlike a standard appeal, the outcome of the arbitration would not be formally adopted by the WTO’s membership, and therefore would not be part of official WTO law — at least not with the same weight as a full appeal.
On October 6, 2022, the first case was appealed. Less than three months later on December 21, it produced the first arbitration appeal ruling.
Continue reading “Arbitration — the stop-gap when WTO appeals are unavailable”