Countries Seek New Fix for Dormant International Trade Court

Member countries of the World Trade Organization are aiming to resurrect a dormant system for resolving trade disputes that has been a point of friction between the U.S. and other nations, the Wall Street Journal reported. The WTO’s Appellate Body, the apex of the Geneva-based group’s dispute-settlement system, has been effectively shut down since 2019 after the Trump administration blocked the appointment of new judges. U.S. complaints about the system, which predate the Trump presidency, center on Appellate Body rulings against tariffs and other remedies, limiting what U.S. officials and lawmakers see as America’s right to protect its industries. The organization’s new director-general, former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, called the dispute-settlement system the “crown jewel” of the WTO after her appointment this month and promised to propose reforms this year. President Biden supported Ms. Okonjo-Iweala after she had been blocked by the Trump administration, paving the way for her appointment. Biden administration officials have expressed a willingness to work with the WTO to ease trade tensions, though the administration is seeking a broad overhaul of the trade body and is keeping the heavy tariffs then-President Donald Trump placed on Chinese goods pending a review of trade policy. China has been an active litigant, and the U.S. more than European and other countries has pointedly criticized the WTO and the appeals body for failing to deal with China’s state-directed capitalism, its lax protection for intellectual property and resulting distortions to trade. Now, WTO boosters see an opportunity to start fixing the international court and clear the logjam. Read more. (Subscription required.)