Rethinking the WTO Panel Process

WTO dispute settlement remains in crisis. The Appellate Body has no sitting members due to an ongoing block on appointments, stalling members’ ability to appeal. As a result, at least sixteen disputes are in limbo. At the same time, focus on the politics of the Appellate Body standstill has tended to overshadow problems with the WTO’s first instance of dispute resolution: the panel process. Over the past two decades, the panel stage has involved protracted and cumbersome adjudication, in some instances delaying the resolution of disputes for years. This discussion will seek to unpack the elements of the WTO panel process and examine its future.