US lifts objections that deadlocked the WTO over its next director-general

‘Troika’ had announced Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala enjoyed broadest support, but US had refused to join consensus

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED OCTOBER 28, 2020 | UPDATED FEBRUARY 15, 2021


On February 15, 2021, Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was confirmed as the World Trade Organization’s next director-general. The decision was by a consensus of the WTO’s membership. See Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the new WTO chief, but let’s not get carried away.

This was made possible 10 days earlier when the new Biden administration in the US announced its “strong support” for her, ending three months of deadlock.

By then, South Korean candidate Yoo Myung-hee
withdrew her candidacy. By overturning the stance of the Trump administration and its US Trade Representative, Robert LIghthizer, Biden paved the way for Okonjo-Iweala to be selected by the necessary consensus.

What follows was written before the deadlock was broken.

Continue reading “US lifts objections that deadlocked the WTO over its next director-general”

Is the World Trade Organization choosing a saviour? Or a butler?

The 40-year record of previous office-holders shows how limited the WTO chief’s powers really are — worth keeping in mind as nominations for a new director-general open from June 8 to July 8

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE 8, 2020 | UPDATED AUGUST 26, 2020

Nominations closed on July 8, 2020 after one month (from June 8) for governments to propose candidates for the new director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The organisation is in deep trouble and the timing looks bad although there are some pluses. But are the 164 member governments going to choose someone to rescue the WTO? Or does that overstate the powers of a person who might be better described as the WTO’s butler?

Continue reading “Is the World Trade Organization choosing a saviour? Or a butler?”

A bit of bother down at the WTO court — Why? And is it a killer? Long read

WTO dispute settlement is in trouble, but it can struggle on at least for a while. So can the organisation’s other important functions

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED AUGUST 21, 2019 | UPDATED MARCH 24, 2021

This looks at the WTO Appellate Body crisis in some depth.
A simpler version is here
.
See also:
How the WTO deals with problem trade measures—it’s not just dispute settlement and The WTO is surprisingly busy — considering it’s supposed to be dead

A casual glance at the headlines might have misled us into thinking the World Trade Organization (WTO) would grind to a halt at the end 2019, that the blame lay entirely with US President Donald Trump, and that the WTO’s demise would bring anarchy to world trade.

Only the last of those three assertions is possibly correct; and only if the WTO really does die — which it certainly won’t, not in the near future.

This is an attempt at an explanation. It shows that even WTO dispute settlement could well survive, but in a less powerful form. Other important work in the WTO will continue, and therefore so will the WTO itself.

But be warned: simple explanations of complex issues cannot tell the whole story. And even this attempt is not that simple. Sorry.

Continue reading “A bit of bother down at the WTO court — Why? And is it a killer? Long read”

By Christmas 2019 the WTO was supposed to be dead — why wasn’t it? A short explanation

Reports of the WTO’s demise are premature. Yes, dispute settlement is in trouble, but even that can hobble on

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED AUGUST 21, 2019 | UPDATED FEBRUARY 13, 2021

This short explanation skims the surface of some pretty complicated issues. If you want more detail, with more links and references,
then try this longer version
.
See also:
How the WTO deals with problem trade measures—it’s not just dispute settlement and The WTO is surprisingly busy — considering it’s supposed to be dead

The doom-mongers had already written off the WTO. From December no new appeals in WTO disputes would be possible and the whole organisation would grind to a halt, they claimed. They were wrong.

The problem is with the appeals stage of WTO legal disputes. Some countries are finding ways to work around that. WTO disputes cannot be the same without a properly functioning Appellate Body, but they can continue even if the system is weaker.

As for the rest of the WTO’s work, it does not rely on dispute settlement. True, member countries participate in those functions more confidently if they know the disputes system is working well, but it will still take years before they lose confidence so badly that they give up on the WTO altogether.

Continue reading “By Christmas 2019 the WTO was supposed to be dead — why wasn’t it? A short explanation”

UK, EU, WTO, Brexit primer — 1. WTO membership

Let’s keep this simple. What lies behind the sudden surge in interest in the UK’s and EU’s relationship with the World Trade Organization? First: the UK’s WTO membership

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED OCTOBER 7, 2017 | UPDATED OCTOBER 10, 2017

Adam Sharpe is my editor at IEG Policy. On October 5, he emailed me. “I almost spat my coffee out,” Adam wrote, “when I turned on twitter and saw that ‘EU-UK WTO’ was trending this morning. Looks like TRQs are now ‘mainstream’.”

“EU-UK WTO” was trending because suddenly the media were reporting on some highly technical discussions related to the UK leaving the EU (Brexit) and the implications in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Continue reading “UK, EU, WTO, Brexit primer — 1. WTO membership”

Second bite — how simple is the UK-WTO relationship post-Brexit?

Much of the divergent opinion boils down to differing assumptions. We can probably do better than ‘just take your pick’ because there is evidence available to assess at least some assumptions

The first bite at the cherry is here


By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED AUGUST 17, 2016 | UPDATED AUGUST 20, 2016

Since the June 23, 2016 referendum, the debate about the UK’s post-Brexit status in the World Trade Organization has become more intense.

Back in March, AgraEurope’s first and detailed look at it attracted little attention (part 1 and part 2 are for subscribers; additional facts, free to view).

WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo’s comments before the referendum did raise a few eyebrows — but not much.

IN THIS ARTICLE

ASSUMPTIONS SCRUTINISED
Nothing simple:
• UK revising commitments, some transposed from EU’s
• tough negotiations to keep entitlements to protect agriculture
• current EU commitments not known
• trade continues but possible disruptions

Not complicated (one or several of these)
• “let’s be Singapore” — UK to be a free unilateral free trader (easier WTO talks)
• “we need you” — other WTO members willing to accommodate UK’s demands in order to keep trading
• “call my bluff” — little risk of legal challenge so UK has legal grounds to go ahead and submit its own WTO terms

Even more complicated (one or both):
• “the blank paper” — UK renegotiates everything from scratch, nothing transposed automatically from EU
• “accession route” — UK negotiates new commitments as if a new WTO member

PLUS What Azevêdo said

All that has changed. Demand has risen for what is now part of a special report for AgraEurope subscribers, and a debate has developed in academic and media comment, and on social media. Continue reading “Second bite — how simple is the UK-WTO relationship post-Brexit?”

Nothing simple about UK regaining WTO status post-Brexit

It’s complex enough to fuel the arguments of campaigners on both sides, delight trade lawyers, and frustrate everyone else


By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE 7, 2016 | UPDATED AUGUST 19, 2016

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo has finally broken his silence over the UK leaving the EU (Brexit), first with the Financial Times, followed by Reuters, the Guardian and others. One of his key points was that the UK would face complex talks in the World Trade Organization. What did he mean? Continue reading “Nothing simple about UK regaining WTO status post-Brexit”