Commercial disputes between member countries of the World Trade Organization are replacing the political tone by the juridical one. Attorneys are becoming equally or even more important than diplomats in the conduction of cases that get to the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body.
And the Appellate Body, responsible for the final word, is seen almost as a tribunal. These are the main conclusions of the conference “WTO at 10 – A Perspective of the Appellate Body,” which gathered yesterday and today (17-18), in São Paulo, diplomats, jurists, and scholars of all Latin America.
The subject worries international trading experts, especially now that even more disputes involve issues such as services, industrial property, sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
In the analysis of Ambassador Luiz Felipe Seixas Corrêa, head of the Brazilian permanent delegation at the WTO, the reform of the Dispute Settlement Body is inevitable.
“The Doha Round, when creating new areas of negotiation, such as agriculture, and insisting on deepening other subjects such as non-agricultural goods and services, will considerably expand its area of operation and the intensification of WTO norms. And for this expanded WTO, obviously, there will be necessary a renovated, agile body for the settlement of disputes,” he said.
Some believe that bringing these disputes to a legal arena, instead of to an essentially diplomatic one, must be reinforced with the adoption of juridical procedures, such as the consolidation of similar decisions for the creation of Jurisprudence, and the implementation of penalties for countries that lose commercial disputes.
The current Dispute Settlement system analyzes each case and does not apply sanctions. The Appellate Body, when giving the final word, recommends to the country that loses the dispute to modify its policies to comply with the decision, otherwise, the winning country can adopt compensatory measures, such as rising tariffs in other sectors, for example.
During the panel “Problems and Improvements proposed for the WTO’s Settlement Dispute System: a market economic outlook,” attorney Tito Amaral de Andrade said that retaliations go against the trade liberalization system.
“The SPS (agreement about the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures) and the TBT (agreement about Technical Barriers to Trade) are going to become the greatest problems of the future, and it will be necessary to discuss the celerity of procedures and the implementation of decisions,” he believes. Andrade suggests, for example, a financial compensation for winning countries.