Seminar on WTO Legal Practice

Chinese Taipei - 15 December 2022

Trade topics: Trade Dispute Settlement Systems, World Trade

On December 15, the Seminar on WTO Legal Practice was held at NTU College of Law. In the seminar, Director Niall Meagher, the Executive Director of the Asian Centre on WTO Law (ACWL), and Ambassador Chang-fa Lo, the Permanent Representative of Taiwan to the World Trade Organization, each shared their practical experience in the WTO legal fields. The seminar was hosted by Professor Yueh-Ping (Alex) Yang, the Director of the Asian Center for WTO law & International Health Law and Policy (ACWH).

In the first session, Director Meagher gave a speech on the topic “WTO Dispute Settlement: Problems and Prospect.” He shared the basic features and principles of dispute settlement as well as the challenges of the Appellate Body (AB). He firstly noted that the move to establish a robust dispute settlement system has become more crucial as trade barriers evolved from tariffs to other non-tariff trade barriers. Since the dispute settlement system essentially requires WTO Members to concede their sovereignty, developing a system that all parties may agree on is essential. However, currently, the U.S. has several concerns, especially over the judicial activism in the AB, and has thus paralyzed the system by vetoing the nomination of AB members. He then introduced the Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA), a temporary solution to the AB crisis. In his concluding remark, he offered his insights and reflections on the potential initiatives raised by the U.S. for reforming the dispute settlement system. In the Q&A session, Professor Pei-kan Yang raised a question on whether making the AB an ad hoc body instead of a standing one and giving Members the power to select AB members may be the solution. Director Meagher replied that it was an interesting idea, but he also raised concerns over the inconsistency of legal interpretation and the quality of ad hoc AB members.

In the second session, Ambassador Lo delivered a speech on the topic “Contemporary WTO Priority Issues and Taiwan’s Role.” He firstly provided the unresolved issues of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC) that will be discussed in the 13th MC. These topics include the “second wave” of fishery subsidies negotiation, the extension of the MC12 TRIPS Waiver Decision, and the WTO reform. He next mentioned the traditional and new issues of food safety and agriculture. Furthermore, he brought up the practice and challenge of negotiating Joint Statement Initiatives (JSI). Finally, he reflected on the contemporary issues in WTO, including digital trade, climate change, and sustainability. In his final remark, Ambassador Lo pointed out that the WTO needs to be made more “relevant” as a “living organization.” In the Q&A session, Professor Pei-kan Yang asked how to motivate new generations to develop an interest in international trade laws. Ambassador Lo replied by introducing WTO’s Young Professionals Programme” which seeks to give an opportunity to rising stars in this field.

Through today’s seminar, the participants had a deeper understanding of the WTO legal practice. Hopefully, it would encourage young talents to embark on their own journey in the field of international trade laws.