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Hryhorii Kalachyhin1,2
  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation
  • 2 HSE, 17 M. Ordynka str., Moscow, 119017, Russia

The Collapse of the Appellate Body as a Determining Factor of the WTO’s Future

2021. Vol. 16. No. 3. P. 238–255 [issue contents]

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is one of the leading institutions involved in global economic regulation. Its purposes are to ensure multilateral cooperation on the liberalization of international trade, harmonize existing standards and requirements, and peacefully resolve trade disputes between countries. Since 11 December 2019, dispute resolution has been handicapped due to the consistent blocking of the appointment of members to the WTO Appellate Body (AB) by the United States. This has reduced the multilateral trading system’s (MTS) predictability and threatens its final decay. 
In this article, the fundamental and formal causes of the collapse are described, and its circumvention mechanisms and effectiveness are discussed. At the same time, an assessment is given of the possibility to overcome the collapse in 2021, considering the change of the U.S. president and other events. Special attention is paid to Russia’s position and its current and potential losses. Finally, the issue of dispute resolution through regional trade agreements is proposed for discussion. The fundamental reasons for the collapse were the shifting balance of power in the world order and the WTO’s inflexibility in adjusting the rulebook and its procedures. The main reasons for the U.S.’ dissatisfaction are objective but based on formalities; the blockage of the AB is an overreaction. Moreover, the U.S.’ position on this issue has not changed with the new president. As a result, there is abuse of the current situation as WTO members file appeals “into the void.” Existing tools to circumvent the collapse are partial and not yet popular among WTO members. Russia needs to resume the AB’s work to complete previously started high-profile disputes and to defend its interests in the future.

Citation: Kalachyhin H. (2021) The Collapse of the Appellate Body as a Determining Factor of the WTO’s Future. International Organisations Research Journal, vol.16, no 3, pp. 238-255 (in English)
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