27 Feb 2024 19:03

Russia yet to join WTO interim arbitration arrangement, waiting for Appellate Body to be unblocked by year-end - Econ Ministry

ABU DHABI. Feb 27 (Interfax) - Russia believes it would not yet make sense to join the World Trade Organization's Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement as the WTO ministerial conference taking place in Abu Dhabi from February 26-29 could confirm a commitment to lift the blockade of the Appellate Body by the end of 2024, Deputy Russian Economic Development Minister Vladimir Ilyichev told Interfax on the sidelines of the conference.

"Meaningful discussions have taken place at the WTO in recent months and decisions have been drafted to facilitate the restoration and modernization of this system [the Appellate Body, blocked due to the position of the United States in December 2019]. Russian experts have played an active part in them," Ilyichev said.

"Now the glass is half full - much has been done, but the parties have not actually started to address the issue of reviving the appellate mechanism. The ministers at the conference will likely confirm the commitment to wrap this up by the end of this year," Ilyichev said.

"We can't say we're happy with the situation. We've won disputes that are in limbo at the appeal stage because the Appellate Body isn't working. We want to be certain that if we now open a new dispute and win it, then we'll have a guarantee that the losing side will comply with the arbitration rulings. All our WTO partners are seriously interested in the organization having an effective mechanism for settling trade disputes," he said.

Ilyichev said Russia had been thinking of signing up to the so-called Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA), instituted in 2021 by a group of WTO members in the very context of the non-functioning Appellate Body.

"We are not yet certain that this mechanism is a full-fledged substitute for the Appellate Body. Most WTO members view it as nothing more than an interim solution, and see the main task as being the permanent restoration of a universal dispute settlement system, the criteria for which will be agreed upon by all members of the organization. It probably makes sense for us to wait for it to be adopted, and we won't have long to wait. If the process drags on without good reason then we'll return to this issue again," he said.