TWN Trade & Development Series No. 43

The WTO and Its Existential Crisis

By Chakravarthi Raghavan

Publisher: TWN (ISBN: 978-967-0747-35-4)

Year: 2019   No. of pages: 68



The multilateral trading system centred in the World Trade Organization (WTO) faces no less than an existential threat stemming from the United States’ blocking of new appointments to the WTO’s Appellate Body (AB) – a standstill which could effectively paralyze the entire mechanism for resolving trade disputes between countries.

While the US stance has been seen as a means to force through a reshaping of the WTO in Washington’s own interests, it has also cast a spotlight on longstanding flaws in the WTO dispute settlement system. As this paper points out, dispute panels and the AB have in several cases been perceived as unduly altering the balance of WTO member states’ rights and obligations, often to the detriment of developing countries.

The priority now, asserts the paper, is to “call the US bluff” and address the AB impasse at the highest political decision-making level of the WTO. Separately, a review of the WTO dispute settlement regime, which is long overdue, should be undertaken in order to ensure that the system enshrines principles of natural justice.

CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN is Editor Emeritus of the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS). He is the author of, among other books, Recolonization: GATT, the Uruguay Round and the Third World; The World Trade Organization and Its Dispute Settlement System: Tilting the Balance Against the South; The Third World in the Third Millennium CE: The Journey from Colonialism Towards Sovereign Equality and Justice; and The Third World in the Third Millennium CE: The WTO – Towards Multilateral Trade or Global Corporatism?.


Foreword by C Rammanohar Reddy

1     WTO-MTS Facing Existential Threat, Needs Political Decisions       

2     Time for WTO to Take Up Overdue Review of DSU                   

3     WTO Faces Hard Choices, No Magic-Wand Solutions                 

4     The WTO, Its Secretariat and Bias Against the South                  

5     Dispute Panels, AB Must Abide by Principles of Natural Justice    

Annex: The Panel and Appeal Process at the WTO by Bhagirath Lal Das  

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