News

WTO members obliged to find new ways to resolve disputes

22.11.2018

Moulis Legal partner director Daniel Moulis has concluded his presentation to the SAWTR/FICCI Annual Conference on International Trade here in New Delhi by saying:

… if the GATT and WTO Agreements are not suited to present attitudes, trading partners have an obligation of honesty and compromise to find new ways to regulate and new ways to resolve their disputes.

The seminar, this year hosted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (“FICCI”), is the key event on the annual calendar of the Strategic Alliance for WTO and Trade Remedies Law and Practice (“SAWTR”). It brings together select private sector lawyers and government and industry representatives to discuss the major legal issues confronting the international trade community.

In his keynote address, Indian Minister of Commerce, Industry and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu told the conference that to maintain the relevance of the WTO the global trade body’s discussion agenda must include both “old” as well as “new” issues:

Today, we must agree that without WTO, we will have a problem because we need global trade … we must make sure that WTO remains intact. WTO has to change and change for the better.

Moulis’s presentation “connected the dots” between Chinese accession issues and the impasse in the WTO dispute settlement system, to conclude:

Ultimately the problem is not the DSU, or the Appellate Body. Ultimately the problem is the rules that the dispute settlement system administers. Tinkering with procedural aspects of the dispute settlement mechanism will not come close to achieving the bigger objective.

He counselled the need for honest dialogue between members on anti-dumping and countervailing issues, and more flexibility in the way that members utilised the panels and Appellate Body to resolve their disputes, to the extent of allowing them to facilitate the consideration and possible adoption of new legal disciplines.

The system is only as good as members want it to be. If there was more flexibility, members would not be forced into a corner. They can try new ways to educate their public about trade benefits without assuming political risk.

As well as the problems with the Appellate Body, the conference also heard from SAWTR practitioners on the trend towards overt protectionism, competition between economic systems, and the new rulemaking that will be required for the 21st century in areas such as e-commerce and tax.

We congratulate conference hosts Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, FICCI and our SAWTR colleagues for the professional staging of this well-attended event. We look forward to the 2019 instalment, in Mexico City.