By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED AUGUST 30, 2022 | UPDATED SEPTEMBER 26, 2022
Türkiye told World Trade Organization members on August 29, 2022 that it would comply with dispute rulings that said it was violating WTO agreements by giving preferences to locally-produced pharmaceutical products, even though the rulings have not been formally adopted.
And because at the time arbitration was the only route open to Türkiye to appeal the case, neither the first-stage “panel” ruling, nor the findings in the appeal, have been formally adopted by the WTO’s membership.
This raises questions about the status of the rulings in WTO law. When a ruling has been formally adopted, governments (and others involved in trade) can assess with a degree of confidence whether similar policies or measures comply with WTO agreements.
When the membership has not adopted a ruling, that confidence is weakened, although some legal experts suggest the difference is small. The US treats non-adoption as significant without explaining why.
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.
It is not with the “US”, but Indiana — a state with 2% of the US population (at 6 million slightly more than Yorkshire or Scotland), less than 2% of the US economy (GDP), and less than 1% of its area (ranked 38th of the 50 US states)
The actual “trade” content is minimal, when compared with what governments usually sign in trade agreements
“Deal” is misleading since this is not the conclusion of anything. It’s a memorandum of understanding (MoU) — or joint statement of intent — on future cooperation and on what future talks will cover. The way it’s presented stretches the meaning of “agreement” a lot.
By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED FEBRUARY 28, 2022 | UPDATED MARCH 4, 2022
Two senior US politicians announced on February 25, 2022 that they were introducing legislation to suspend World Trade Organization terms in US trade with Russia and to seek expelling Russia from the WTO.
Lloyd Doggett, chair of the House of Representatives Ways and Means subcommittee on health, and Earl Blumenauer, his counterpart on the subcommittee on trade, proposed the bill following Russia’s “unprovoked invasion of Ukraine”.
Since then, at least three similar bills have been proposed in the US Senate.
Meanwhile, Ukraine and Canada have actually implemented action against Russia within in the WTO system, and the EU has said it is considering its own action.
“GI Simon,” punned a third trade law guru Holger Hestermeyer of The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London.
Lester had tweeted the outcome of a court case as reported on NBC News: “decades of importation, production, and sale of cheese labeled GRUYERE produced outside the Gruyère region of Switzerland and France have eroded the meaning of that term and rendered it generic.”
That quote already contains a lot that is inflammatory in trade. Lester added a couple of gallons (US, of course, 3.785411784 litres each) of gasoline to the flames: “Let’s keep up the erosion & make all cheese terms generic!”
‘If you will listen to us, we will listen to you, and let’s start the reform process from there.’ But was USTR Tai being disingenuous?
By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED OCTOBER 21, 2021 | UPDATED OCTOBER 21, 2021
The reaction among experts to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s speech in Geneva on October 14, 2021, has been mixed, some welcoming the optimistic tone, others disappointed at the lack of specifics.
“Unpopular take: Tai’s Geneva speech was actually quite good and clarifying at this stage,” said one privately. “I heard her as being noncommittal but also not prejudging.”
“Sorry I’m with the pessimists on the Tai speech, if nine months into a US administration the best that can be offered is that something might be considered in the future,” said another.
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.
The US’s claim that it is a victim in the WTO is based on a truly blinkered view. And that’s being generous
By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED JUNE 21, 2020 | UPDATED JANUARY 22, 2021
“We lose the lawsuits, almost all of the lawsuits in the WTO”. So said President Donald Trump in October 2017, just one of three huge untruths he uttered in barely 100 words.
Like the bad loser in the school playground, Trump might as well have wailed: “You’re all cheats!”
But the sentiment persists in US politics and was repeated on June 17, 2020 by Trump’s US Trade Representative, while more broadly an anti-WTO campaign mounts and US belligerence has thrown the WTO into crisis.