Interview: UK's candidate for WTO chief urges "right processes" to avert crisis

Updated: August 13, 2020 Source:
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Britain's nominee for the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) called on members to fix the dispute settlement mechanism and said that without the "right processes" the risk of the global trade body collapsing is "high."

Asked about how high he evaluates the risk of the institution's collapse, Liam Fox told Xinhua in a recent interview: "If we don't get the right processes, that risk is high... We need to, for example, get the dispute resolution mechanism in place."

"One of the reasons that many countries joined the WTO was the value-added element that they're able to have dispute resolution inside the rules-based system. We have to get that going. If we can't get it going, then frankly, the main point of the organization is largely lost," the candidate explained.

The WTO's dispute settlement body is currently paralyzed. The Appellate Body, considered as the supreme court for global trade disputes, has been unable to hear any new cases since Dec. 11, 2019, because it has only one judge.

The Appellate Body is supposed to have seven judges and needs a minimum of three judges to function. The United States has blocked the appointment of new judges, complaining that the body has overreached its mandate.

Fox, one of eight candidates to succeed incumbent Roberto Azevedo, is a Conservative member of the UK Parliament and served as the country's secretary of state for international trade under former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Fox, who in his previous role as trade secretary had paid several visits to Washington and Beijing each, also said that respecting WTO rules was important in the current trade tensions among major members of the organization, such as the U.S., China and the European Union.

"On all occasions, when anyone asked which side we were on, my reply was that we were on the side of the rules-based system. All countries must follow the rules that they signed up to," Fox told Xinhua.

"These are the very conditions of the membership club accepted by all of its members. We have to encourage them to follow those rules at all times."

Fox also urged a return to the core values and principles of the Geneva-based body, which was established in 1995.

"My top priority is to recommit ourselves to the very vision that we had originally when the WTO came into being, a shared endeavor where we would work together, we would make compromises for the greater good. That spirit needs to come back."

Editor: 于慧宸