19 June 2019 – The business community is deeply concerned about the future of the multilateral
trading system. For more than two decades, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been the
foundation of our global economic success. The multilateral trading order has proven to be
essential for our businesses and the functioning of their global value chains. These global value
chains have delivered enhanced prosperity, improved product choice, and concrete
improvements in consumer purchasing power. These gains are now at risk.
The current crisis of the WTO and ongoing trade conflicts threaten the predictability, stability, and openess in global
trade, therefore also endangering global cooperation, development, and peace.
It is widely accepted that the WTO needs urgent modernization that would lead to more balanced
results for all member states and address the reality of twenty-first century trading patterns. The
international business community has repeatedly called for immediate action to reform all three
pillars of the WTO – rule-making and liberalization, monitoring and dispute settlement. While
several proposals on the WTO reform were submitted, the Members of the WTO have been
unable to come to decisions. We are running out of time.
It is particularly urgent that we address the conflict among WTO Members on the functioning of
the dispute settlement system. A balanced and effective dispute settlement system is essential
for the enforcement of the WTO rule and the orderly resolution of trade conflicts. However, the
system will collapse if the nomination process for members of the Appellate Body is not
unblocked soon. As of December 2019, the terms of two of the remaining three members of the
Appellate Body will expire, leaving the mechanism unable to complete any appeal. If this
stalemate continues, the credibility of WTO agreements will suffer. Furthermore, every individual
trade dispute has the potential to turn into a small trade war without a proper, rules-based
We call upon the G20 leaders to:
1. Make the resolution of the conflict on the WTO dispute settlement system and its Appellate Body
a top priority.
2. Engage in urgent negotiations in Geneva to unblock the nomination process for Appellate Body
3. Mandate G20 Trade Ministers to report to their leaders and to the public about the progress
made on a monthly basis.
4. Find solutions within the existing framework that ensure an impartial process and binding
rulings on all WTO matters.
5. Take into account established concerns as well as existing proposals for solutions by G20 and
other WTO Members, e.g. regarding transitional rules for outgoing Appellate Body members, the
length of proceedings (including the issue of the 90-day deadline), and the focus of findings, as
well as the issue of precedent.
6. Consider contingency work on potential alternatives as a last resort, in the event of continued
gridlock. This could include arbitration on basis of Article 25 of the WTO Dispute Settlement
Understanding (DSU) and appointing new members of the Appellate Body by vote.
7. Engage in good offices, conciliation, and mediation on the basis of Article 5 of the DSU in order
to facilitate the early settlement of disputes and avoid further burdens on the system.
8. Guarantee enough capacity of the dispute settlement system of the WTO to efficiently and
timely decide on the growing number of cases.