On 6 December 2019, the WTO announced that at a meeting of the full WTO membership on 6 December, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo emphasised that for dispute settlement as for rule-making, the choices members make in the coming months would be consequential for the future of the multilateral trading system. He also welcomed a compromise reached in the Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration on the WTO’s budget for 2020.

In his remarks, the Director-General said that while the effective suspension of appellate review of WTO dispute rulings is a serious challenge to the global trade body’s adjudication function, it “does not mean the end of the multilateral trading system”.

“Existing WTO rules still apply. WTO disciplines and principles will continue to underpin world trade. And members will continue to use WTO rules to resolve trade conflicts — in regular WTO bodies, through consultations, via dispute settlement panels, and through any other means envisaged in the WTO agreements,” he said.

Members have important decisions to make, with implications for the WTO and for their respective economies, DG Azevêdo said. On December 9, 2019, the Director-General told a meeting of the full WTO membership that he would launch more intensive, high-level consultations on how to resolve the longstanding impasse over the appointment of Appellate Body members. The DG’s intervention came after WTO members were unable to reach consensus on a proposal to address concerns regarding the functioning of the Appellate Body.