Enhancing the Legitimacy of the World Trade Organization: Why the United States and the European Union Should Support the Advisory Centre on WTO Law

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has faced harsh criticism from developing nations in recent years. Many developing nations feel that the promises they received when they joined the WTO have not been fulfilled. These nations feel that wealthy, industrialized nations like the United States and the members of the European Union are the only ones that have benefited from the organization. Moreover, they feel that these developed nations have benefited at their expense through the WTO's dispute settlement process. Many improvements to the WTO have been proposed. However, the one that seems the most able to help developing nations, the Advisory Centre on WTO Law (ACWL), has not received support from either the United States or the European Union.

The Advisory Centre was established in 2001 and is the first center for legal aid in the international system. The goal of the Advisory Centre is to provide developing nations with training and legal assistance in WTO matters. The WTO is an intricate system of rights and obligations, supported by a binding dispute settlement mechanism to ensure compliance. Meaningful participation in the WTO requires a good understanding of these rights and obligations and the ability to participate in its dispute settlement mechanism. The ACWL has the potential to benefit every nation that participates in the WTO, not just developing nations. The ACWL legitimizes the WTO as a whole. When parties are equally represented, the entire system is legitimated. Therefore, both the United States and the European Union would ultimately benefit from supporting this organization.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  I. INTRODUCTION
     A. The Structure of the WTO
     B. The WTO Dispute Settlement Process
 II. THE NEED FOR WTO REFORM: ENSURING THAT
     DEVELOPING COUNTRIES HAVE EQUALITY OF
     ACCESS TO THE DISPUTE SETTLEMENT PROCESS
III. THE SOLUTION: THE ADVISORY CENTRE ON
     WTO LAW
     A. The Logistics of the ACWL
     B. The Work of the ACWL in its First Year
        of Operation
     C. A Case Study in Depth: European
        Communities-Trade Description of Sardines
 IV. THE REACTION OF THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE
     UNITED STATES TO THE ACWL
  V. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

A new non-governmental international organization has been established to provide developing and least-developed countries with high-quality legal advice for disputes involving the World Trade Organization (WTO). (1) This organization, the Advisory Centre for World Trade Law (ACWL), was first conceived by a trade delegate from Colombia. (2) Many developed and developing countries have contributed both financial and moral support to the organization, (3) which has been quite successful in its first years of operation. (4) Surprisingly, however, neither the United States nor the European Union has shown interest in supporting the organization. (5)

This lack of support does not make sense for several reasons. First, the lack of support from the United States and the European Union contravenes their national and supranational policies regarding fair representation. (6) The justice systems in both the United States and the European Union are seen by many nations as models of equal justice because of their commitment to ensuring that defendants are adequately represented. (7) Second, the WTO has faced substantial criticism in recent years primarily because many developing countries feel that they are not getting what they were promised when they joined the WTO. (8) By ensuring that developing countries are on equal footing with developed nations in the dispute settlement process, the ACWL has helped stem this criticism and given developing countries hope for their future in the WTO. (9) For example, Peru, represented by the ACWL, has received a favorable Appellate Body decision in a dispute with the European Union, something that may not have been possible without the help of the Centre. …