Crisis at the WTO: Fixing a broken dispute system
The appeals body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is like the Supreme Court for global trade. But it’s fundamentally broken: it hasn’t been able to hear any cases or issue decisions since 2019.
The US has blocked new appointments of WTO appeals judges under the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations, complaining that the organization’s rules have hurt US jobs and industry while it lets China protect its massive domestic market from foreign competition. Until WTO reform happens, the US says, it will block any new judges from sitting on the appeals bench.
Without a minimum of three appeals judges, the WTO can’t resolve disputes. And that’s a major problem for the world’s only international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. But there may be hope in sight.
On GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said she is hopeful the dispute settlement impasse will be resolved by the WTO's 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February 2024.
“[The United States] are not the only ones who have problems with the system. Developing countries also find it difficult to access,” Okonjo-Iweala says, “So let’s take all these complaints, reform system, and make it useful for everyone.”