Sunday, December 16, 2007

No Decisions, No Decisions in WTO Arbitration Hearings

If you've been waiting for the latest in the World Trade Organization disputes between the U.S. and, well pretty much the rest of the Western world, you'll have to wait at least a little bit longer. Once again, the WTO has announced a delay in the issuance of its final arbitration ruling as to the amount of compensatory market damages to be awarded to Antigua & Barbuda, which months ago finally won its case against the U.S. when the U.S. dropped its final appeal of a previous decision.

The final, final, final decision was supposed to come out on Friday, which continues a month full of missed deadlines in the news world to date. (Anybody here about that final Absolute Poker audit summary which was supposed to be released on or about November 7th? No word yet on that sucker, either.)

As for the WTO, it looks as though the behind-the-scenes arguing may just be continuing, despite a statement from Antigua's lead attorney, Mark Mandel, that the statement was being delayed while it was being translated. It's also likely that the WTO does not want to issue the decision that it knows it must, in favor of Antigua, because the U.S. is poised to ignore it. Following that train of thought, the U.S. ignoring the decision could be severely damaging to the WTO itself. Therefore, the WTO dithers. A similar judgment regarding the European Union's ancillary complaint is also on hold for the short-term future.

So when will it end? In recent months the whole WTO drama has evolved like the old Buck Rogers serial of the 1930's, when every episode ended with a false drama, wherein Buck was about to be killed as the curtain fell, but evaded death --- often, through a liberal rewriting of the sequence itself --- as the following episode picked up. Those old serials were terribly cheesy, because they ultimately never led anywhere... exactly as the WTO process seems to be today.

So tomorrow, or next week, or next year... the WTO decision will appear. And then we'll all say, "What's next?"

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