India, 37 others seek WTO dispute body’s aid to fill up Appellate Body vacancies

Amiti Sen | | Updated on: Dec 06, 2021

A World Trade Organization (WTO) logo is pictured on their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, June 3, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

DSB to take up proposal to end US’ blockage of appointments on Feb 28

A formal submission has been made by 38 World Trade Organisation members including India, the EU, China, Russia, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam to the Dispute Settlement Body seeking a decision on launching of a selection process to fill the three vacancies in the seven-member Appellate Body pending for long.

“Most WTO members, including New Delhi, feel that the US has been allowed to block the process of filling up vacancies in the Appellate Body for too long and the DSB should intervene. Any further delay could severely hit the dispute settlement mechanism and the credibility of the WTO,” a government official told BL. The DSB will consider the proposal in its meeting on February 28.

It remains to be seen if the DSB can rule in favour of starting the selection process without seeking the approval of all members such as the US.

“The DSB has to ultimately take all members on board. However, it is good that so many members have raised the issue at the DSB as it puts on record the concern felt by so many about the delay in appointments,” said Biswajit Dhar, Professor, JNU.

The Trump administration blocked the appointment process of judges on the ground that the functioning of the Appellate Body needs to be improved including bringing about amendments to a rule (Rule 15) which allows judges to continue working on cases they were assigned to before their terms ended. Members, opposing the blockade, have argued that the issue could be settled separately and the appointment procedure should be allowed to go on.

The 38-member group has proposed that the DSB should establish a Selection Committee, consistent with established procedures, composed of the Director-General and the Chairpersons of the General Council, the Goods Council, the Services Council, the TRIPS Council and the DSB, to be Chaired by the DSB Chair.

“The Selection Committee should be requested to carry out its work in order to make recommendations to the DSB within 60 days after the deadline for submitting nominations of candidates, so that the DSB can take a decision to appoint three new Appellate Body members as soon as possible,” the communication stated.

The US blocked the appointment of the judges also because of some judgements went against it and Washington alleged that the Appellate Body had over-reached and created law through legal rulings.

“There is just no reason for the US to question the Appellate Body’s functioning as it has so far functioned in a fair and balanced way. India has recently lost two disputes with the US — one on poultry imports and the other on local sourcing in the solar energy sector — but it doesn’t mean we will cry foul,” the official said.

Published on February 19, 2018
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