11 December 2019



 The crisis that has engulfed the world’s trading system has today deepened, with potentially damaging implications for Australia and other nations that benefit from open trade.

Overnight, the panel that adjudicates appeals brought by members of the World Trade Organisation has effectively ceased to exist.
For the past 24 years, this panel has ruled on major international trade disputes.
It is a central part of the multilateral trading system that has helped to underpin global economic growth and lifted more than one billion people out of poverty around the world.
But the Trump Administration has blocked the WTO from appointing new members to the appellate body. 
The terms of two of the remaining three members have now expired, which means the world’s trade referee will cease to function.
This is bad news for Australia, which has two disputes pending in the WTO: a claim against India over sugar subsidies and another against Canada in relation to our wine exports.
The US President has crippled the WTO’s dispute resolution system at the same time as he has pursued his trade war with China.
Australia must now urgently work with other countries to build consensus on how to resolve this crisis.
It’s clearly in our national interests to lobby for a strong global trading system supported by a viable WTO.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, Scott Morrison is not up to the job when it comes to such diplomacy.
During his visit to the US in September, the Prime Minister had little impact in persuading his friend Donald Trump to end the trade war with China or to save the WTO.
Mr Morrison declared that he wanted China to be treated as a developed economy under the WTO rules.
That he did so while in the US, soon after meeting President Trump, made it inevitable that China would reject the idea out of hand.
Labor has previously called for modernisation of the WTO - including measures that take into account China’s remarkable economic progress.
But this must be achieved through negotiation rather than through megaphone diplomacy.
Labor hopes the Government is prepared to develop a comprehensive plan for the reform of the WTO, including saving the dispute resolution system. 
Labor is willing to actively engage in discussions for such reform.
The jobs of Australians depend on it.