The WTO in the Twenty-first Century – Dispute Settlement, Negotiations, and Regionalism in Asia

The WTO in the Twenty-first Century

Editors:     Yasuhei Taniguchi, Alan Yanovich, and Jan Bohanes 

ISBN:          978-0521-87569

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Year:           2007

Price:         $65.00/$140.00



Reviewed by Prof. Dr. Ralph M. Wrobel, West Saxon University of Applied Sciences, Zwickau (Germany)

After failure of the Doha round, the development of WTO as main organization in international trade is more on the top of agenda than before. Nowadays, driven by the Financial- and Economic Crisis free trade is substituted increasingly by protectionism. Thereby not only the traditional welfare states in Europe and North America but also the new industrializing countries in East Asia will be affected badly. They all depend on each other, cross-linked by foreign trade, as well as FDI. Therefore the new book on the “WTO in the Twenty-first Century” from an Asian point of view is of great interest for all scientist as well as practitioners dealing with international economics. The book offers a broad overview of all relevant WTO issues, including dispute settlement and the Doha round and additional the Asian perspective.

The voluminous book of 507 pages is divided into five parts and includes 26 chapters. The first part is an introduction in the politics of WTO after ten years of existence in general including two chapters on the anniversary as well as on the WTO’s multilateral and regional involvements. Because of their briefness and focus these chapters must be seen as introduction into the issues only.

While the second part deals with the future of the WTO dispute settlement system from a broad international perspective, the following part focuses on the Asian point of view. In part two promises and challenges of the dispute settlement, its practices between 1995 and 2005, as well as its results are discussed. Additionally, special questions like the 2005 banana tariff arbitrations are analyzed. In this part the chapter by E.-U. Petersmann “WTO dispute settlement practice 1995 – 2005: lessons from the past and future challenges” is of special interest. Petersmann discusses e.g. the strengths and weaknesses of the dispute settlement system. Then he focuses on the challenges for future WTO jurisprudence, also discussing special questions like trade sanctions and human rights, trade related biotechnical rights, and the role of the judge in the WTO legal system. At the end he summarizes: “Yet, the compulsory jurisdiction of the WTO dispute settlement bodies and of regional trade courts sets incentives for a progressive ‘constitutionalization’ of international trade rules and policies for the benefit of welfare-increasing cooperation among free citizens across frontiers.” (p. 97) Then, in part tree the East Asian involvement in the dispute settlement is discussed. A special focus on Japan has to be mentioned here: While chapter 12 deals with Japan’s perspectives on the present dispute settlement understanding negotiations, chapter 15 is labeled as Japan’s approach to the ‘use’ of the WTO. But for the reviewer chapter 13 about some appellate decisions by M. Matsushita was of main interest first of all here. He discusses the role of the Appellate Body focusing on a few important holdings like the EC-Tariff Preferences case (2004) or the US-Shrimp case (1997) defending the Appellate Body against criticism.

Similarly divided into a common and an Asian perspective, also part four and fife deal with the Doha Development Agenda, first from a broad international perspective, then from an Asian point of view. In part four the main focus is on trade in agricultural goods as well as in services. Here M. Honma’s paper on agricultural issues in the Doha round shall be emphasized. First, he reviews the current WTO negotiations on agriculture and then turns to different important issues for food importing developed countries. Hereby he discusses the multi-functionality of agriculture, food security and safety, and tariff peaks. As he points out at the end, “it is vital for all countries to link agricultural negotiations to structural reforms in agriculture” to establish a fair and market-oriented agricultural trading system worldwide (p. 337). In part five the Asian regional integration and the multilateral trading system are on the top of agenda. While G. Marceau asks for a road toward more WTO-consistent regional trade agreements, Z. Yuqing discusses the prospects of an East Asian free trade area. Also interesting is D. Ahn’s paper on the trade remedy system for East Asian free trade agreements. As he points out, trade remedy measures have always been a central issue for the trade policies of East Asian countries (p. 423).

The main aim of the book – as it is stated in the introduction – is to examine “three issues that are central to the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO): dispute settlement; the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations; and the relationship between regional integration and the multilateral trading system”. Considering the special focus on Asia all three issues are discussed sophisticated and voluminously. Emphasized must be the successful combination of theory and practice. Not only scientists but also practitioners get a chance to speak. Additionally, it must be mentioned, that the book is well provided with synopses, e.g. a table of Dispute Settlement Cases (pp.xxi – liv) and a voluminous and sophisticated index (pp.483 – 507), both very helpful for the reader. Thereby the book offers different points of view as well as interesting insights into the WTO. Additionally, it is an ageless source for research into the first ten years of WTO trade policies.