Developing nations call for filling vacancies at WTO appellate body, say impasse to paralyse dispute settlement mechanism

New Delhi: Seventeen developing countries on Tuesday made a strong case for filling vacancies in WTO's appellate body, saying current impasse could "completely paralyse" the dispute settlement mechanism of the global trade body by December.

At the end of the two-day ministerial meeting here, in which 22 WTO member nations participated, also stressed on working collectively to strengthen the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to promote development and inclusivity.

The declaration, issued after the meeting, was signed by 17 countries, while the remaining five refrained from backing the 13-point document.

 Developing nations call for filling vacancies at WTO appellate body, say impasse to paralyse dispute settlement mechanism

Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of WTO. Reuters

The member nations who signed the document said the dispute settlement system of the WTO is a central element in providing security and predictability to the multilateral trading system and stressed that the ongoing impasse threatens to "completely paralyse it by December 2019".

"We, therefore, urge all WTO members to engage constructively to address this challenge without any delay in filling the vacancies in the appellate body, while continuing discussions on other issues relating to the functioning of the dispute settlement mechanism," the declaration said.

The United States, a WTO member, has blocked the appointment of appellate body. The minimum quorum (3) for functioning of this body will end on 10 December, after which it will become dysfunctional.

India has flagged the issue on day one of the ministerial meeting.

The declaration has also stressed that special and differential treatment (S&DT) provisions are rights of developing members that must be preserved and strengthened in both current and future WTO agreements, with priority attention to outstanding Least Developed Countries (LDC) issues.

The S&DT norms provide flexibility to developing member countries in the WTO. Under this, they enjoy benefits like higher domestic support for the agriculture sector and longer time periods for implementing agreements and binding commitments.

The document further said the process of WTO reform must keep development at its core, promote inclusive growth, and fully take into account the interests and concerns of developing members, including the specific challenges of graduating LDCs.

The way forward must be decided through a process that is open, transparent and inclusive. We agree to work collectively with the aim to develop proposals to ensure that our common interests are reflected in the WTO reform process, it added.

With reference to the global agreement on agriculture, it said there was a need to provide adequate policy space to the developing countries to support their farmers through correcting the asymmetries and imbalances on priority.

Updated Date: May 14, 2019 20:54:04 IST