G20 trade Ministers discussed ways to strengthen WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism

NEW DELHI, Sep 21:  Trade Ministers of G20 countries on Wednesday discussed ways to strengthen the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism to make it more accessible and efficient.

The meeting was convened by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on the sidelines of the G20 Ministerial Meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

“Participated in a discussion on WTO (World Trade Organisation) Dispute Settlement Reform convened by @AmbassadorTai…Exchanged views on ways to strengthen the WTO dispute settlement mechanism to make it more accessible and efficient,” Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said in a tweet.

The Geneva-based multilateral body WTO deals with global exports and import-related norms. Besides, it adjudicates trade disputes between the member countries.

Global trade experts term the dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO as the “jewel in the crown”.

There are two main ways to settle a dispute once a complaint is filed at the WTO  – the countries find a mutually agreed solution, particularly during the phase of bilateral consultations; and through adjudication which includes ruling by a panel and if not satisfied, challenging that ruling at the appellate body.

The appellate body is the apex institution to adjudicate disputes.

Smooth functioning of this mechanism hit a roadblock, when the US blocked appointments of members in the appellate body (AB). Though the AB stopped functioning from December 10, 2019, the panels are still working.

Since December 2019, as many as 24 appeals have been filed in the AB. Out of this, four are filed by India that includes Japan’s case on India’s safeguard measures on steel; the US case against India’s export subsidies and Brazil, Australia and Guatemala’s cases against India on sugar.

Developing countries are of the strong view that a two-tier system is fundamental for the smooth functioning of the dispute settlement mechanism.

The meeting called by the USTR assumed significance as the member countries have agreed in the WTO’s ministerial meet in Geneva in June to discuss the issue.

According to the outcome document of the Geneva meet, members acknowledged the challenges and concerns with respect to the dispute settlement system including those related to the AB, recognised the importance and urgency of addressing those challenges and concerns, and commit to conducting discussions with the view to having a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all members by 2024.

The G20 or Group of 20 is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s major developed and developing economies.

It comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US, and the European Union (EU).

Collectively, the G20 accounts for 85 per cent of the global GDP, 75 per cent of international trade, and two-thirds of the world population, making it the premier forum for international economic cooperation.  (PTI)