12 Dec 2019

WTO Appellate Body crisis: Peter Van den Bossche addresses public hearing

On 3 December World Trade Institute (WTI) Director of Studies Peter Van den Bossche testified before the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament during a public hearing on the crisis in the WTO Appellate Body. His testimony is now available as a video recording.

At the invitation of Bernd Lange, Chairman of the Committee, he shared the podium with Sabine Weyand, Director-General, DG Trade, European Commission; and Chad Bown, Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, D.C.

In his initial intervention, Professor Van den Bossche – an Appellate Body member from 2009 to 2019 - described WTO dispute settlement over the past 25 years as “a glorious experiment with the rule of law in international relations”. He recalled that the current crisis was the immediate result of the blockage by the United States of the appointment of Appellate Body judges.

He noted that as of 11 December 2019, the Appellate Body will no longer be able to hear and decide new appeals. It is currently unclear whether it will complete any of the many appeals still pending by that date.

The collapse of the Appellate Body may well result in the collapse of the whole WTO dispute settlement system, he said. Although the title of the public hearing was ‘Can we save the WTO Appellate Body?’, the question in fact being asked was whether WTO dispute settlement could be saved.

Prof. Van den Bossche went on to outline three ways in which effective, rules-based dispute settlement could potentially be ensured from 2020.

A video recording of the testimony as well as the full text of the Initial Intervention can be found in the links.