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Åpningsinnlegg på seminar om WTO og tvisteløsningsmekanismen

Ekspedisjonssjef Katja C.  Nordgaards åpningsinnlegg på et seminar om WTO og tvisteløsningsmekanismen arrangert av Norsk utenrikspolitisk institutt (Nupi).

Thank you and welcome,

  • As of today, the WTO Appellate Body cease to be operational. Why is that a problem that warrants a seminar in Oslo?
  • Basically
    • Because a well functioning WTO and the multilateral trading system of which the WTO is the corner stone, is the most important trade policy issue for Norway.
    • And the breakdown of the Appellate body undermines the functioning of the WTO.
  • Just to be clear, we are talking of a crisis and a major setback, but the WTO has not – as some claim – stopped functioning:
    • The rules of the system are still there and most members of the WTO continue in most cases to apply them and
    • There are negotiations going on within the WTO, most importantly on fish subsidies and e – commerce.

Turning to the topic of the day:

  • The dispute Settlement mechanism is one of the main novelties of the WTO compared with its predecessor The GATT.
  • Norway has been part in a few disputes in the WTO and has found that the system, including the Appellate Body functions quite well.
  • We are in one such dispute at the moment over the USAs extra tariffs on steel and aluminium. In our view, they are unjustified use of safeguard measures for the protection of US industries, while the US claims they are needed for national security reasons. We are confident that we have a solid case, but are of course as always prepared to accept the outcome.
  • The US says that its concern with the Appellate Body is the way it – in the US´ view - has strayed outside its mandate. There might be elements – mainly procedural - that could be improved. These are however, nowhere near anything that warrants the drastic steps that the US has taken of blocking new appointments of members of the Appellate Body.
  • The main strength of the WTO dispute system has probably been the adherence by all – major parties and small economies - to the conclusions drawn.
  • We have avoided the practice from the GATT-era of large economies putting pressure on smaller partners to accept questionable solutions. We do not want to go back there.
  • While the US has been quite vocal about its complaints and concerns with the WTO dispute settlement, it is much less clear and forward coming with solutions.
  • This is one reason why I´m looking very much forward to hearing Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute in Washington talk to us today.
    • Understanding why the US has taken such steps and what they might be expecting to achieve is important for our own future expectations for the WTO and the multilateral trading system.
    • Are we moving in a direction – including post Trump - of more power politics in trade, where the US, China and other major players can be expected to unduly influence dispute results?
    • That would be very grave and undermine the multilateral trading system that has served the global economy, developing countries and us so well. Or more optimistically,
    • Are there changes that the US wants in the rules of the game that could be worth contemplating to rescue the core elements of system.
    • These are some of the issues I hope we can have a good discussion on this morning,
    • Mr Bown, the floor is yours.
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