Geneva: US objections to the re-appointment of a sitting judge for a second term at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) would undermine its independence and effectiveness, the media reported on Wednesday.
The US last week notified other WTO member states that it will not support the re-appointment of Judge Seung Wha Chang, a South Korean, for his second four-year-term at the WTO appellate body, a standing body that hears appeals from reports issued by panels in disputes brought by WTO members.
Granting a second term for a sitting member has been common practice since the WTO was formed 20 years ago. Last year, two sitting members from the US and India were granted second terms.
Washington opposed Chang because he participated in decisions against the US, rather than a lack of judicial competence or independence, the media reported.
The venerable Korean member is accused of deviating from the covered General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/WTO agreements in three cases.
“Linking the re-appointment of a member to specific cases could affect the trust,” the six sitting members of the appellate body have said. “He has worked hard together with us to maintain the quality of our reports and to foster constructive improvement of our operations.” They lauded Chang for integrity, independence and impartiality.
Gregory Shaffer, a law expert at the University of California Irvine, said the US actively uses the WTO dispute settlement system to enforce rules on others, but that will become implausible if the country destroys the system’s credibility.
He warned that it is a high-risk strategy for an administration that professes to be internationalist.
He said: “The core reason for building a global trade regime is to create a third-party institution that helps manage conflicts that could ultimately endanger international welfare, peace and security.”