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Conflict of Interest Raises Questions About WTO Panelists

May 18, 1998

Conflict of Interest Raises Questions
About WTO Panelists

Arthur Dunkel Serves as Chairman of Body Critical of
the Law he was to Consider as WTO Panelist

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A flagrant conflict of interest involving a World Trade Organization dispute resolution panelist raises serious questions as to the efficacy of the WTO?s conflict of interest rules. Arthur Dunkel was selected by WTO Director-General Renato Ruggiero to serve on the dispute panel to consider the complaint by the European Communities involving the U.S. “Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act.”

Arthur Dunkel also serves as the chair of the International Chamber of Commerce?s “Commission on International Trade and Investment Policy,” a body which has taken a strong position in opposition to the U.S. law.

“The WTO conflict of interest rules do not work,” said Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen?s Global Trade Watch. “How did it happen that the leader of an organization publicly opposed to a nation?s law can then judge that same law as a WTO panelist? It would appear that beauty pageants have more effective conflict of interest rules than the WTO,” Wallach said.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), an organization founded to promote international trade and investment, is a harsh public critic of the U.S. “Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act.” According to its June 19, 1996, position paper, “The ICC believes that the Helms-Burton Act, which threatens to distort international trade and investment and to cause considerable commercial disruption to companies from countries which are trading partners of the U.S., is in clear contradiction of the fundamental principles of the World Trade Organization and may contain elements which are incompatible with U.S. obligations under the WTO.”

According to Vincent J. O?Brien, Deputy Director of Communications for the ICC, it is the Commission that Mr. Dunkel chairs that defines and determines the ICC?s positions on trade issues. Dunkel also serves on the board of Directors of Nestl? S.A., the world?s largest food company.

The WTO panel?s authority lapsed before it could consider the case.