At the regular meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization on Monday, the United States once again abused its "veto power" to reject a proposal to start the process of selecting new judges for the Appellate Body, raised by 127 members of the WTO, the 63rd time that the proposal has been blocked.
The dispute settlement mechanism is one of the most important pillars of the WTO, under which members hold negotiations first in the case of a dispute and turn to the panel for a ruling if they fail to agree on a solution, and then appeal to the Appellate Body if dissents still exist. In this sense, the Appellate Body is the "Supreme Court" of world trade whose ruling is like the "final judgment".
The Appellate Body has seven permanent judges and at least three are needed to be in office to keep it functioning. As the US has blocked the appointment of new judges in recent years, the dispute settlement mechanism was forced to shut down in December 2019 with only one judge left, plunging the WTO into its biggest crisis. On Nov 30, 2020, all Appellate Body judges left the office.
The US is obstructing normal operation of the WTO's key functions because, with the rise of emerging economies, it thinks that WTO rules are limiting its "freedom" to pursue its trade policies.
Politicians in the US often talk about "respecting rules", but they do so only if the rules are favorable to them. Since taking office, the Joe Biden administration has abused the concept of "national security" to advance "America First", sabotaging international trade rules. From putting more and more foreign companies on its Entity List and imposing longarm jurisdiction and trade sanctions to introducing the CHIPs and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, a series of US practices have not only severely disrupted global industry and supply chains, but also violated the principles of free trade and the WTO rules.
International rules are not the US' domestic rules and cannot serve the US alone. The US tries to use its strength to resolve trade disputes, even forcing other countries to make concessions. This way it not only tramples on the rules of free trade, but also undermines the rules of multilateralism. In a globalized and multipolar world, the US cannot do whatever it wants to while making the world pay for its practices.