For nearly 25 years, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has played a crucial role in mediating international trade disputes. The WTO’s dispute settlement system has largely prevented damaging cycles of tariffs and retaliation outside internationally agreed upon rules and arbitration. Now, the WTO's dispute settlement function is at risk of collapsing. For roughly two years, the United States has blocked the appointment of new judges to the WTO's Appellate Body due to complaints over judicial activism at the WTO and concerns over U.S. sovereignty. Efforts to reform the dispute settlement system in response to U.S. demands and pave the way for new appointments to the Appellate Body have been unsuccessful. On December 10, the terms of two of the three remaining Appellate Body members expired and the Appellate Body now lacks a quorum necessary to hear appeals, grinding the dispute settlement system to a halt and throwing into doubt the WTO's role in enforcing multilateral trade rules.
To navigate the crisis, the Scholl Chair has compiled and categorized its own analyses of the Appellate Body impasse.