At a meeting of the dispute settlement body of the Geneva-based international organization on Monday the U.S. delegation rejected a call from 121 member states to begin selecting candidates for the seven vacant appeals judge posts.
In the debate on the proposal submitted by Mexico on behalf of the supporting countries, some twenty delegations emphasized the need to resolve the situation as soon as possible and to ensure the functioning of the Appellate Body. Several have criticized the United States, saying that blocking the appointment of judges violates member states ’rights.
The World Trade Organization dispute settlement mechanism was paralyzed in December 2019, as the Appeals Forum became inoperable after the term of office of the majority of judges expired, including the last one last November.
The Board of Appeal shall decide on trade disputes between Member States and may enforce its decisions.
If a commercial dispute reaches the Board of Appeal, a minimum of three judges must sit in the final decision-making panel.
The U.S. delegation said Monday cannot support the proposal to appoint new judges, as the systemic concerns about the Board of Appeal, which have been voiced for 16 years, remain. Washington accuses the board, among other things, of regularly failing to meet deadlines for adjudicating appeals.
Under WTO rules, Member States involved in a trade dispute are first required to consult each other and may only apply to the World Trade Organization for a dispute settlement panel to be set up if consultations fail. Experience over the last 25 years has shown that a significant part of the discussions is concluded at the consultation stage. Dispute settlement panels do not make a judgment but adopt a report, and an appeal can be lodged with the Board of Appeal.
Cover image source: Getty Images
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