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May 12 — A key group of World Trade Organization (WTO) officials failed to agree on a new candidate to replace appellate body member Yuejiao Zhang, whose second four-year term expires May 31.
The chairman of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), Xavier Carim of South Africa, circulated a notice May 12 that said the selection committee tasked with finding Zhang's replacement was “not in a position to recommend a candidate that it believes would enjoy the consensus of the entire membership.”
The selection committee is composed of WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo and the chairmen of the WTO General Council, the Goods Council, the Services Council, the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Council and the DSB.
The committee had considered the following candidates for the position:
Although the committee planned to issue its recommendation before May 12, Carim said it “has not given up on the possibility that it may still find a consensus on one of the seven candidates and, therefore, will need more time to consult further on this matter.”
The development comes a day after U.S. trade officials said they would oppose the reappointment of another WTO appellate body member, Seung Wha Chang of South Korea, whose first four-year term also expired May 31 (92 ITD, 5/12/16).
U.S. trade officials said they were concerned that Chang's participation in a series of recent WTO appellate rulings showed a trend toward rewriting or writing new rules that were inconsistent with WTO members' international trade obligations.
A prolonged absence of two members from the WTO appellate body could further complicate and delay the work of the DSB, which has struggled to manage an increased workload of complicated disputes.
Geneva trade officials said they expect the May 23 DSB meeting to be particularly contentious, as members are set to question the U.S.’s decision to publicly oppose Chang's reappointment.
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