WTO crisis: How US role in global trade is changing

By Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/12/10 22:28:40

A sign of the WTO on its headquarters in Geneva Photo: VCG

As if the world needs more evidence that the US has become a destructive force in global trade rather than a leader as it had been in the past, Washington has single-handedly and effectively paralyzed the WTO - the symbol of rules-based global free trade.

The WTO's Appellate Body, a pillar of the organization that settles trade disputes among members, was officially crippled on Tuesday, after the US alone blocked new appointments supported by other members to fill vacancies created by the expiration of two members' terms. 

Only one member now remains in the seven-member body and a quorum of at least three members is required to hear a case. That means the WTO will not be able to hear or rule on more than 60 cases that are pending, including disputes over the US' trade wars with China, Europe and others, potentially unleashing more tit-for-tat trade fights that will further cripple.

While WTO officials said they will continue discussions to overcome the impasse but it is unlikely a consensus could be reached soon, given the US' bullying tactics and uncompromising attitude about holding the fate of the multilateral body hostage to gain more ground for its own interests, analysts said.

Serving US interests

"Although the US helped create the WTO, it is willing to cripple [the WTO] just because it feels that the multilateral body has not served US' interests well," Huo Jianguo, vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Huo noted that the US is not necessarily looking to depart from the WTO, it is seeking ways to make it better serve US' own interests.

The US has long complained about WTO rulings against its trade practices and has even bypassed the body to impose tariffs on metal imports from many countries, including some of its close allies. The WTO, along with other international organizations, has become a target for US President Donald Trump, who is pursuing his "America First" agenda against established global rules.

Huo said that the US helped set up WTO and other global bodies mostly to "consolidate its power" and serve its own national interests over others', and whenever that does not work, it resorts to domestic laws to override resolutions or rulings of the global bodies.

"This is nothing new for the US when it comes to global governance. The difference is that before, no one could or dared to challenge its sole authority but, with rising opposition from many countries, US faces a challenge from a majority of the countries," Huo said. "It's 163 against one," he said, referring to the other 163 WTO members.

Posted in: ECONOMY

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