At its plenary session on 24 January, the European Economic and Social Committee adopted an opinion calling for ambitious reform of the World Trade Organization in order to overcome the current crisis while highlighting EU values and the EU's leading role in sustainability.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the global organisation dealing with the rules of trade between nations, but recent developments in international trade have made its work difficult. As Emmanuelle Butaud-Stubbs, rapporteur for the EESC opinion, pointed out, the proposed reforms have to be "in line with the values of the EU and with the role it can play in the world trade arena, and link investment to development".
The opinion includes proposals to keep the Appellate Body of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body up and running by extending the current judges' term of office as a temporary remedy to the present situation, increasing the number of judges from seven to nine and making provision for recruiting full-time independent judges.
Karl Brauner, WTO Deputy Director-General, took part in the debate at the EESC plenary session and confirmed the importance of keeping the Appellate Body operational: "If it does come to a halt, the rules of international trade would no longer be enforceable. The rule of law would be replaced by the deal of the day and power would prevail over legality".
The EESC also suggests additional action on data protection, food safety standards and animal welfare and environmental standards in agricultural production. Furthermore, the opinion advocates greater civil society participation in the work of the WTO, for example using the WTO Public Forum, in the form of a balanced and representative assembly of social and economic stakeholders from all different sectors and interests.(dgf)