The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was created in 1995 as a successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
The WTO is the only global international organisation administering international trade rules between nations. The WTO Agreements, which cover trade in goods, services as well as intellectual property, aim at ensuring that the WTO Members operate in a non-discriminatory trading environment.
The WTO Agreements are enforced through consultations or, when these fail, through recourse to a specific dispute settlement mechanism which ensures the timely resolution of trade disputes. Modifications to the existing WTO Agreements are being negotiated currently within the framework of the Doha Development Agenda. This global round of trade negotiations that started in November 2001 is essential for producers, exporters and importers of goods and services since it will determine the legal environment of the global trading system for the coming decades.
Van Bael & Bellis is one of the few law firms having a Geneva office exclusively dedicated to WTO issues. The WTO practice of Van Bael & Bellis ranges from assisting governments in WTO dispute settlement proceedings and trade negotiations to assessing the consistency of national trade measures under the WTO Agreement. Van Bael & Bellis also advices countries during their negotiations to accede to the WTO - this includes assistance during both the Working Party and the bilateral accession negotiations.
Van Bael & Bellis assists governments in WTO dispute settlement proceedings. The assistance covers all stages of the proceedings from the consultation stage to the implementation stage, both from a procedural and substantive viewpoint.
Van Bael & Bellis was involved in the following recent dispute settlement proceedings:
For a full list of WTO dispute settlement cases handled by VBB click here.
Van Bael & Bellis' experience has been recognised by the Dispute Settlement Body in the appointment of members of the firm as WTO panellists. Van Bael & Bellis is also listed as a recommended law firm on the roster of WTO law firms of the Advisory Centre for WTO Law (“ACWL”).
Implementation of WTO Regulations
Van Bael & Bellis helps governments to implement the WTO Agreements by offering assistance in drafting WTO compliant legislation. In this regard, Van Bael & Bellis assisted Egypt and China, among others, in the drafting of WTO consistent trade remedies' regulations. As a necessary complement, Van Bael & Bellis also advises governments when putting in place internal trade regulations and organises training sessions for officials involved in these matters.
Based on its experience with developing and less developed countries and its practical knowledge of the WTO Agreements, Van Bael & Bellis designs tailored-made solutions for all WTO Members as they act to enforce their WTO rights and obligations. For example, Van Bael & Bellis provided assistance to several WTO Members, including South Africa and Egypt, in establishing unfair trade remedies' investigating authorities. The Van Bael & Bellis team also ensures the regular training of national trade officials both in its Brussels and Geneva offices as well as in their home countries.
Van Bael & Bellis is monitoring developments in the WTO for the WTO Members and for various companies and trade associations.
Throughout the Doha Development Round, Van Bael & Bellis provides Governments, companies and trade associations with detailed and up-to-date reports on the state of the on-going negotiations and also analyses the consequences of the various proposals tabled by WTO Members. Furthermore, Van Bael & Bellis directly advises its clients on the strategies to adopt in order to safeguard and promote their trade interests and assists them in the preparation of synthetic papers or proposals.
Other WTO-related services
As one of the few international law firms with a Geneva office, Van Bael & Bellis monitors on a regular basis the upcoming WTO meetings and negotiations, and is in a position to efficiently and speedily provide a number of legal and trade-related services to governments, international organisations, private enterprises and business associations.
Van Bael & Bellis can examine for its clients the legal consistency of specific measures under the WTO Agreements. It assists governments and business interests in overcoming trade barriers in order to enter new markets, and can assess the implications of the WTO agreements on the business strategy of multinational companies.
As the participation of developing countries in the multilateral trading system continues to expand, Van Bael & Bellis can assist them in implementing WTO Agreements and Decisions into national legislation and in training their officials to enforce WTO rules. In this context, Van Bael & Bellis works closely with international organisations responsible for providing trade-related technical assistance and capacity building to developing countries.