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WTO Unplugged

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  • As of December 11th the WTO appellate body will cease to function following US refusal to appoint new judges. In effect, the WTO dispute resolution mechanism disappears
  • The US clearly feels that this is to its advantage. China, in spite of its rhetoric, has never followed WTO rules in any case so it’s doubtful it will be bothered. The EU, with it’s legalistic, rules-based approach and inability to exert power, will likely be the most adversely affected
  • Following the US Senate’s decision to support Hong Kong’s democracy protestors, China has reacted with fury showing that, for China, trade is a political tool and it will not tolerate any sort of criticism of its actions
  • The West, and Europe in particular, has, so far, no answer to how it can trade with China while upholding its own values and defending democracy and human rights
  • Will Europe take the view that its principles are fungible when money and trade are involved?
  • US Steel tariffs have become a mess with suggestions that those companies with influence in Washington are receiving waivers while others are not
  • Complex global supply chains are efficient but may not be resilient. Shortages of essential medicines suggest that supply chains have broken down. Another cost of globalisation?
  • Breakdown of the iPhone value chain suggests that standard trade statistics mis-allocate trade deficits and surpluses

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