TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AND TRAINING: DISPUTE SETTLEMENT : Asian economies discuss best practices for dispute settlement

3 December 2012

30 November 2012

Trade diplomats and practitioners from 13 Asian economies participated this week in a workshop on WTO dispute settlement in New Delhi.

Hosted by the Centre for WTO Studies at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (CWS/IIFT), the workshop unites practical WTO litigation training and exchanges of experiences on the domestic needs and challenges that often characterise engagement in WTO dispute settlement.

The event, co-organised by the World Trade Organization, the Advisory Centre on WTO Law (ACWL) and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), in collaboration with the CWS/IIFT, is the first of its kind in the Asian region and builds upon an earlier Tripartite Specialised Training on WTO Litigation that was organised in Geneva in May 2012.

Litigation Training Course

“The WTO Dispute Settlement system has proved to be an important tool to Asian economies, including many developing countries.  Nonetheless, challenges remain as countries can only take advantage of the system if they have domestic legal capacity to identify and prepare cases - whether it is with the assistance of outside counsel or on its own,” Valerie Hughes, Director of Legal Affairs at the WTO said when welcoming the trainees on 26 November 2012.  “It is these practical skills that we hope to build with this innovative training programme,” she added.

Senior legal experts from the WTO and ACWL provided a 2.5 day training course to 20 junior officials, which ended at noon on 28 November with an interactive Moot Court.

“Training is an important element of the ACWL’s activities.  In addition to providing legal advice and litigation services to developing countries, we are committed to sharing our own experience and expertise to further strengthen the legal capacity in our Member States’ capitals,” Cherise Valles, Deputy Director at ACWL, commented on the course.

Regional Dialogue

With a shared belief that advanced learning can be enhanced with the exchange of experiences and best-practices on the real life challenges that countries face when managing trade disputes, the workshop was joined by 11 high-level experts from within the region.  On 28 and 29 November, the senior experts participated in two roundtable debates on intra-governmental coordination and on private sector engagement, coordinated by ICTSD.

“I am very glad that the organizers have chosen this subject for the discussions,” Ambassador Narayanan, former Ambassador of India to the WTO, said when opening the first roundtable session.  “Governmental coordination is not only of pivotal importance, but one also cannot find any guidance on this in books or other literature.  It has to come from practice and experience and this is a perfect forum for such discussions”.

As pointed out by Miguel Rodriguez Mendoza, Senior Fellow from ICTSD, by 2012, Asian economies have accounted for 20% of all WTO complaints, reflecting a similar figure for their share of world merchandise exports; by comparison, the Latin American countries have initiated 24% of all cases, despite accounting for only 4% of world merchandise exports.  Also, despite the overwhelming importance of intra-regional trade, Asian economies rarely engage in intra-regional disputes, perhaps due to value chains in the region, he noted.
National Dialogue

Following the intra-regional component, two dozen Indian representatives from industry, civil society, academia and private counsel gathered to discuss Indian opportunities and challenges on 30 November.  High-level representatives introduce the mechanisms that are in place in India for intra-governmental coordination and private sector outreach.

“Informing industry about the opportunities provided by the WTO rules-based system and means of engagement is considered critical to realise the development potential of the multilateral trading system,” Marie Wilke from ICTSD noted in her opening remarks at the National Dialogue.