Publication Details

M. Wagner, 'The impending demise of the WTO Appellate Body: from centrepiece to historical relic?' in C. Lo, J. Nakagawa & T. Chen(eds), The Appellate Body of the WTO and its reform (2019) 67-90.


The current crisis engulfing the multilateral trading system has crystalized in the dispute over the (re-)appointment of the members of the World Trade Organization's Appellate Body. While the legislative arm of the organization has never lived up to its potential, its dispute settlement arm with the Appellate Body at its apex was seen as a lodestar for other international courts and tribunals. The United States has taken issue not only with individual decisions of the Appellate Body (as well as individual Appellate Body members), but with the institution as such. The article recounts the important institutional redesign that has led to the Appellate Body becoming the World Trade Organization's institutional "centerpiece". These very same developments are now destined to lead to the Appellate Body's downfall with potential reverberations for the entire World Trade Organization's dispute settlement process. Moreover, it threatens the institution as a whole, unless some last minute compromise can be found between various competing visions of global economic governance.