Ireland is one of the world’s most open, global, export-based economies with international trade constituting an important means of creating more and better jobs and growing our economy. Export-led growth and foreign direct investment have been cornerstones of successive Governments' economic and trade policies.
As Ireland has benefitted immensely from our export orientated enterprises trading across the globe, we fully support a multilateral, rules-based, global trading system, as embodied in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). An effective WTO dispute settlement system is an essential element of this order.
As International Trade Policy is a competence of the EU Commission under the EU Treaties, the EU Commission takes the lead on WTO matters taking into account the views of individual Member States and the collective good of the Union. Therefore, Ireland continues to be fully engaged with the Commission on the area of WTO reform.
One of the most imminent threats facing the WTO is acknowledged to be the impasse with the Appellate Body as a result of the continued veto by the United States of the appointment of Appellate Body Panel Members. This continued vetoing of appointments to the Appellate Body means that it will officially cease functioning after 10 December 2019, when there will be only one panel member remaining.
The European Commission has been very active in attempts to resolve the Appellate Body impasse and, more generally, to lead on essential WTO reform. In that regard, the Commission published a “concept paper” on WTO reform on 18 January 2018. More recently, an informal process to examine the issues raised by the United States and others was established and chaired by New Zealand WTO Ambassador David Walker, the current Chairman of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body. Ambassador Walker presented a set of possible "landing zones" on reform to the General Council of the WTO in July of this year. And Ambassador Walker, with full EU support, continues to engage with WTO members to resolve the impasse. The European Commission has continued to engage with other like-minded WTO members to encourage reform as part of this process.
Should the Appellate Body cease to function after December 2019, the EU has proposed an Interim Arbitration Agreement process grounded in the framework of Article 25 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding of the WTO. The EU hopes to agree, on a bilateral, case-by-case, basis with countries with whom it may, from time to time, have trade disputes to agree to operate under this Interim Arrangement.
In discussions by EU Trade Ministers in Council, I have strongly supported the Commission's proactive engagement on WTO Reform, with officials in my Department and on assignment to our Permanent Mission to the UN and WTO in Geneva actively promoting Ireland's and the EU's interests in maintaining and improving the multilateral, rules-based, international trade order embodied in the WTO.
Finally, I should add that EU Commission President-elect, Ursula von der Leyen, in her "Mission Letter" to Commissioner Phil Hogan, who has been nominated as the next Trade Commissioner, highlights WTO Reform as one of the key priorities for Commissioner Hogan's term, thereby, once again, making clear the EU's commitment to the multilateral, rules-based, global order for world trade.