Does the WTO Need a Permanent Body of Panelists?
Posted: 30 Sep 2009
Date Written: September 2009
There is a longstanding debate over the need for a permanent body of panelists at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Put most starkly by the European Communities (EC), the argument is that only full-time jurists would have the experience needed to render ‘better and more consistent rulings’ that could stand up under appellate review. India and the African Group, among others, challenge the logic of Europe's proposal and its empirical underpinnings. Our article weighs in on this debate, offering the first statistical test of the EC's hypothesis, that conditional on being appealed, rulings handed down by less-experienced panelists are more likely to be reversed. We find that experience matters, but only with regards to the panel's chair. Indeed, on appeal, panels led by experienced chairs are far less likely to have their rulings reversed by the Appellate Body; the experience of the other panelists, by comparison, is inconsequential. The implication is that rather than constituting a permanent body of panelists, the WTO would be better served by establishing a pool of permanent chairs. As for the timeliness of panel reports, which is Europe's-and the literature's-other outcome of interest, we find no evidence that judicial experience matters in the least.
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