Dr Adam Chapnick, who is a professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) and who also serves as the deputy director of education at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto writes, in his eponymous blog, that “On July 31st, Canada achieved a significant foreign policy victory. It wasn’t flashy; it had little to do with Ottawa’s commitment to a feminist approach to world affairs; and Canadians are unlikely to see or feel its results directly any time soon … [but, he says, quite correctly] … that’s how diplomacy generally works.“
The victory came at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which the United States President, Donald J Trump has been trying, hard, to dismantle because it refuses to act as America’s lapdog. By way of background, Professor Chapnick explains that: “According to its website, the World Trade Organization “is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations… The goal is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible” … [and] … When a member-state believes that international trade law has been violated by another country, it can appeal to a three-person WTO arbitration panel … [then] … If either state-party is unsatisfied with the ruling, they can then appeal to the seven-member WTO Appellate Body, which makes a final, binding decision … [and, the] … Appellate Body judges are appointed by WTO member-states for four years. They can be re-appointed once … [but] … The WTO’s arbitration system began to break down in 2011 under the Obama administration. Washington’s disappointment with an American judge led it to block her re-appointment … [while that action was worrying it was] … not critical, as Washington appointed another judge in her place, and life at the WTO continued … [but then, still in the Obama adminsitration] … when the Office of the US Trade Representative blocked a non-American judge in 2013-14, things got more complicated. For all intents and purposes, America had exercised a veto over a WTO Appellate Body appointment … [and while] … every member-state has always had such power … the unwritten rules of diplomacy had dictated that no one would use it (based on the assumption that only qualified judges would be nominated through an apolitical process) … [but now] … The Trump administration – which seems to believe that every international organization is unfair to the United States – has since used that same veto power to block every recent potential appointment to the Appellate Body in an effort to choke the WTO out of existence.“
Adam Chapnick explains that “Canadian governments have long understood that Canada benefits when its trade disputes are resolved through transparent legal processes. The alternative, “might is right,” will never be ideal for a country of less than 38 million in a world of almost 8 billion … [and] … while Ottawa has acknowledged the WTO’s many flaws, it has rightly privileged reform over annihilation … [thus] … In response to Washington’s actions, Global Affairs Canada established the Ottawa Group, a coalition of 12 countries plus the European Union that pledged to devise proposals for reform … [then] … In the midst of these broader negotiations, in July 2019, Canada and the EU finalized their own, pre-emptive, interim bilateral solution … [by which, in brief] … they set up a private appeals board to settle disputes between them in the case that the WTO Appellate Body could no longer function … [and now] … The success of the Canada-EU agreement appears to be linked to the Ottawa Group‘s recent break-through … [through which] … The 17 signatories to the July 31st supplement have established a Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement – comprised of a pool of 10 arbitrators – to replace the Appellate Body until its minimum membership is restored … [he concludes that] … The solution is hardly perfect – for one, Japan has yet to sign on – but it does preserve a broad, international commitment to a rules-based order.“
So, well done to the ministers concerned, especially The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s foreign minister and The Honourable Jim Carr, former Minister of International Trade Diversification (to whom I’m sure we all send best wishes as he battles blood cancer); but especially a HUGE BZ (well done, in naval parlance) to the many, often faceless diplomats ~ the men and women who negotiate the painstaking details that make it possible for 17 countries, each with contradictory requirements, to finally reach an agreement.
Team Trudeau can claim credit for this … and they deserve it, despite the leader’s many ethical flaws.