Reforming the World Trade Organization’s paralyzed dispute-resolution body will be a key priority for the institution, but the process won’t be easy, incoming Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said.
“There’s a very great desire to reform the dispute-settlement system with the appellate body,” she said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “Will it be easy? The answer is no. Because if it were easy it would have been done, but I think we can put together an approach and a work program.”
The dispute system has been hobbled since 2019, after the Trump administration unilaterally opposed all new appointments to the seven-member appellate panel, saying it had overstepped its mandate. The Biden administration this week said it would not agree to appoint new members to the body because the U.S. “continues to have systemic concerns” with the functioning of the panel.
The Trump administration made “some valid criticisms with the way that it functions,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “Of course I know the Biden administration still has issues with it, as have previous administrations.”
“I’m looking very much forward to working with the Biden administration to try to reform,” she said. “They’re interested in reform, and the WTO needs to be reformed and rebranded. It needs to have some successes, because it’s been stagnant and paralyzed for some time.”