Executive Intelligence Review


The Trump Administration Is Maneuvering To Disable the WTO Appellate Body

Sept. 29, 2018 (EIRNS)—The U.S. does not have veto power over the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body, but it apparently does have the power to veto appointments to the group of judges who hear the cases. According to Forbes today (and other press accounts), the Trump Administration is using that power to weaken or even collapse the Appellate Body.

There are seven judges on the Appellate Body, and there must be three of those judges hearing every case. However, there are three vacancies in the group, reportedly because the U.S. will not approve any appointees or extensions, and a fourth spot will be vacated on Monday, Oct. 1, due to forced retirement. With only three people left, if a case necessitates a recusal by any of the three, the body will not be able to hear the case. Two more judges end their terms in December 2019.

Forbes quotes Dennis Shea, the U.S. Ambassador to the WTO, who said in May that the Appellate Body had become a “rogue organization” that routinely breaks the rules under which it is supposed to operate. “rules that we, as WTO members, negotiated and approved domestically,” Shea said, “stipulate that the Appellate Body must render its decisions within 90 days—there are no exceptions given. And yet the AB now almost never meets that deadline.” He also complained that the WTO allows judges to finish cases they were working on when their term ends.

These certainly sound like technical complaints, but the objection from Trump is not technical. As with the defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the WTO court has jurisdiction over sovereign states (although the TPP court was to be even more powerful), and Trump is demanding a restoration of sovereignty over globalization “world government” institutions.