Court TV comes to WTO

A Pan­el ses­sion with the par­ties to the lat­est dis­pute in the long-run­ning beef hor­mones dis­pute will be tele­vised. This is the first time that a WTO dis­putes pro­ce­dure has been opened to non-par­tic­i­pants and to the pub­lic The Chair of the Pan­el has writ­ten to the WTO Sec­re­tari­at, order­ing thein­no­va­tion bq.  With regard to the pro­ceed­ings of the Pan­els in the two above-ref­er­enced cas­es, I am writ­ing to advise you that fol­low­ing a com­mon request made by the par­ties on 13 June 2005 and after care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of the exist­ing pro­vi­sions of the DSU, we have decid­ed that the pan­el meet­ings to which the par­ties are invit­ed to appear will be open for obser­va­tion by the pub­lic through a closed-cir­cuit TV broad­cast. The meet­ing of the Pan­els with the third par­ties will remain closed as not all the third par­ties have agreed to have it open for obser­va­tion by the pub­lic. (“Com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the Pan­el Chair”:–8_e.doc [Word doc­u­ment about 44k]) WTO Pan­els adopt their own pro­ce­dures (with­in lim­its), so this inno­va­tion was always up to them, and the par­ties to the dis­pute, to decide. It’s an idea whose time is prob­a­bly over­due. There’s no rea­son to spare the pub­lic the banal­i­ty of Pan­el pro­ceed­ings. Some greater trans­paren­cy will help to dis­pel the myth that WTO dis­putes are some­how ‘fixed’ by the major economies or that they are a means of over­rid­ing nation­al sov­er­eign­ty. Most of the inter-Par­ty action in a dis­pute is by writ­ten sub­mis­sion. The Pan­el usu­al­ly con­ducts an inter­roga­to­ry ses­sion with the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the dis­putants that is not unlike, say, a supreme court inter­roga­to­ry. There is no ‘exam­i­na­tion’ (in-chief, or cross-) of the par­ties by the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the oth­er par­ty and you can count on a min­i­mum of dra­ma. This dis­pute con­cerns the con­tin­ued refusal of the EC to imple­ment a long-stand­ing deci­sion of the WTO that it must lift its ban on the import of beef treat­ed with growth pro­mot­ing hor­mones (fail­ing any sound sci­en­tif­ic jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the ban). Per­haps a pub­lic dis­play of argu­ment on this emo­tive issue will encour­age a lit­tle dra­ma in the pre­sen­ta­tions and play­ing to the pit. Per­haps that’s what led to this deci­sion. But I hope not.

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