In light of the recent disruptions caused by the US within the multilateral trading system – the slow killing of the Appellate Body (AB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the imposition of tariffs on imports of aluminum and steel, a trade war with China, and prospects of further tariffs on imports of cars – the European Union (EU) has taken up the task of leading reform talks with the view of saving the WTO. The proposals made public by the European Commission at the end of September 2018 focus on three areas: (i) creation of new substantive rules; (ii) making regular committee work more efficient and improving transparency of trade policies; and (iii) reforming dispute settlement.
This lecture by Professor Jan Wouters, founding Director of the Institute for International Law and of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, and hosted by CCSI and the Columbia Society of International Law, critically assessed the Commission’s proposals: are they balanced and effective? Do they stand any chance or will securing consensus at the WTO be a very long shot? Will the newly proposed substantive rules (e.g., on subsidies, state-owned enterprises, forced technology transfers, digital trade, different approach to special and differential treatment for developing countries) be acceptable to China, which is clearly targeted by them? Will the proposals on transparency and committee work (e.g., improving subsidy notifications by creating a rebuttable presumption of serious prejudice in case of non-notification) appeal to the wider WTO membership? And, last but not least, will the proposed changes to dispute settlement fly with the US, as they may go in a different direction compared to the latter’s views?
About Jan Wouters:
Jan Wouters is Full Professor of International Law and International Organizations, Jean Monnet Chair ad personam EU and Global Governance, and founding Director of the Institute for International Law and of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, an interdisciplinary research center with the status of both a Jean Monnet and KU Leuven Centre of Excellence, at KU Leuven. He is also President of KU Leuven’s Council for International Policy. He studied law and philosophy at Antwerp University, obtained an LL.M. at Yale University, and was Visiting Researcher at Harvard University. As Visiting Professor at Sciences Po (Paris), Luiss University (Rome), and the College of Europe (Bruges), he teaches EU external relations law. As Adjunct Professor at Columbia University he teaches comparative EU-US perspectives on international human rights law. He is a Member of the Royal Academy of Belgium for Sciences and Arts and practices law as Of Counsel at Linklaters, Brussels. He is Editor of the International Encyclopedia of Intergovernmental Organizations, Deputy Director of the Revue Belge de Droit International, and an editorial board member in ten other international journals. He has published widely on international and EU law, international organizations, global governance and financial law. His most recent books include The Law of EU External Relations (2nd ed. 2015), China, the EU and the Developing World (2015), Global Governance of Labour Rights (2015), Global Governance Through Trade (2015), The Contribution of International and Supranational Courts to the Rule of Law (2015),Global Governance and Democracy (2015), Armed Conflicts and the Law (2016), Judicial Decisions on the Law of International Organizations (2016), Edward Elgar Research Handbook on EU Energy Law and Policy (2017), Commercial Uses of Space and Space Tourism (2017), Commons and a New Global Governance (2018), EU Human Rights and Democratization Policies (2018) and International Law: a European Perspective (2019). Apart from his participation in international scientific networks, he advises various international organizations and governments, trains international officials and is often asked to comment on international events in the media. He is currently coordinator of a large Horizon 2020 Project RECONNECT (“Reconnecting Europe with its Citizens through Democracy and Rule of Law”, 2018-2022).