11 December 2019   Leave a comment

The World Trade Organization’s appellate court has ceased to function because the US has refused to nominate judges. The court is supposed to have 7 judges, but is now down to one. There are currently 14 trade disputes before the court which cannot be resolved because a minimum of three judges are required to decide cases. According to the Nikkei Asian Review:

“Appointments of new judges to replace those whose terms have expired generally require unanimous approval from WTO members. But the U.S. has vetoed nominations since 2017, in keeping with the protectionism embraced by President Donald Trump, claiming that the WTO’s appellate body oversteps its authority by interpreting American laws.

The World Trade Organization was created in 1995, replacing the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which lacked the ability to arbitrate effectively trade disputes. The WTO was created in order to establish a set of rules by which trade disputes could be settled according to principles that are shared by all members. US President Trump has claimed that the US has lost most of the cases brought before the WTO:

Trump, Oct. 25: The WTO, World Trade Organization, was set up for the benefit for everybody but us. They have taken advantage of this country like you wouldn’t believe.

“And I say to my people, you tell them, like as an example, we lose the lawsuits, almost all of the lawsuits in the WTO — within the WTO. Because we have fewer judges than other countries. It’s set up as you can’t win. In other words, the panels are set up so that we don’t have majorities. It was set up for the benefit of taking advantage of the United States.”

In fact, when the US has brought cases against other states before the WTO, it has won 91% of the cases. But it has lost most of the cases brought against the US by other states. Dan Ikenson of the Cato Institute makes an important point:

“The WTO doesn’t target any member’s policies, laws, regulations, or actions. The “WTO” doesn’t file complaints at the WTO. WTO members do. And they do so when they are aggrieved and when they are as close as possible to 100% certain that they will prevail if the matter goes all the way through dispute settlement. As a result, complainants prevail almost all of the time — on 90% of adjudicated issues. When the United States has been a complainant (as it has in 114 of 522 WTO disputes over 22 years — more than any other WTO member) it has prevailed on 91% of adjudicated issues. When the United States is a respondent (as it has been in 129 cases — more than any other WTO member), it has lost on 89% of adjudicated issues.

If an agreement about the judges cannot be formed, then the WTO cannot fulfill its primary responsibility. Trade disputes will therefore be settled by power and not the rule of law. The US has effectively dismantled an important part of the liberal world order. Perhaps the WTO should fade away, but the rule of the jungle is hardly a good substitute.

India’s Parliament has passed legislation that grants citizenship to specific minorities facing discrimination in three neighboring countries. Unfortunately, the legislation does not cover Muslims who are persecuted in the same countries. According to Al Jazeera:

“The bill brings sweeping changes to India’s 64-year-old citizenship law by giving citizenship to ‘persecuted’ minorities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“But critics say the legislation put forward by the Hindu nationalist ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) undermines the country’s secular constitution, with opposition parties, minority groups, academics and a US federal panel calling it discriminatory against Muslims.”

The bill also does not apply to Tamils from Sri Lanka, Rohingya from Myanmar and Tibetans and Uighurs from China. But it is the Muslims living in India who are most concerned. There have been a series of anti-Muslim measures in India since the election of Modi and the BJP:

“Many Muslims in India say they have been made to feel like second-class citizens since Modi came to power in 2014.

“Several cities perceived to have Islamic-sounding names have been renamed, while some school textbooks have been altered to downplay Muslims’ contributions to India.

“In August, Modi’s administration rescinded the partial autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, and split it into two union territories.

“A citizens’ register in Assam finalised earlier this year left 1.9 million people, many of them Muslims, facing possible statelessness, detention camps and even deportation.

There were protests against the bill in specific areas of India. Some in the country believe that the bill violates India’s historic commitment to secularism.

Posted December 11, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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