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Business News/ Economy / Restore WTO dispute settlement body: India
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Restore WTO dispute settlement body: India

The WTO's appellate body, which hears appeals and disputes brought by member nations, had been non-functional since December 2019 due to the blocking of the appointment and reappointment of its members by the US.

Delegates attend the 13th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi. (AFP) (HT_PRINT)Premium
Delegates attend the 13th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi. (AFP) (HT_PRINT)

India has called for the restoration of the appellate body of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the dispute settlement mechanism as the top priority of any reform process. India reiterated its long-standing position at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) under way in Abu Dhabi.

The working session on dispute settlement (DS) reforms at the MC13 also saw India pitch for effective formalization of the ongoing informal dispute settlement reform discussions among WTO members, the commerce ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The WTO's appellate body, which hears appeals and disputes brought by member nations, had been non-functional since December 2019 due to the blocking of the appointment and reappointment of its members by the United States.

Due to this, the appellate body's membership has shrunk from seven to four, thus posing a challenge to the dispute resolution mechanism of the multilateral agency.

"This had called into question the WTO’s overall credibility and the rules-based trade order it upholds," the commerce ministry said.

"India reiterated its long-standing position that a credible and reliable WTO DS system is the bedrock of an equitable, effective, secure and predictable multilateral trading system," it said.

"India emphasized that the outcome of any reform process should provide for the restoration of the appellate body, which remains a top-most priority for the country," it added.

Typically disputes at the WTO are settled in two ways, which include parties finding a mutually agreed solution, particularly during the phase of bilateral consultations, and through adjudication, including the subsequent implementation of the panel and appellate body reports.

Three main stages of the WTO dispute settlement process include consultations between the parties; adjudication by panels, and if applicable by the appellate body; and the implementation of the ruling, which includes countermeasures in the event of failure by the losing party to implement the ruling.

"Moreover, India recalled that for the past year, it had engaged in good faith in the facilitator-driven informal DS reform discussions between certain members, despite several deficiencies with the process. The format and pace of the informal discussions had posed significant challenges for most developing countries, particularly the least-developed countries, from the outset," the commerce ministry said.

"The informal organisation of these discussions made it extremely difficult for developing countries to participate effectively," it added.

As a way forward, India has sought the immediate and effective formalization and multi-laterization of the informal dispute settlement reform process by rectifying the procedural and substantive defects.

In the matter of the dispute settlement reform process, India has proposed a three-point action plan for members.

These include transitioning the discussions on dispute settlement reforms to WTO formal bodies to meet the mandates of the MC12 Ministerial Declaration, to ensure that the transition is not just a mere formality but results in an effective multi-lateralization of the process that is member-driven, open, transparent and inclusive, and to prioritize the restoration of the appellate body.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rhik Kundu
Rhik writes about the Indian economy and its crucial indicators. He is constantly navigating corporates, decoding policies, and dabbling with everything in between.
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Published: 28 Feb 2024, 06:09 PM IST
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