The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures is the key multilateral agreement governing the use of government subsidies and related financial assistance, as well as the remedies available to address such measures when they cause commercial harm. Having not been updated in many years, these rules do not reflect the realities of today’s global economy, particularly as we witness a global rise in the scope and magnitude of various types of subsidies and financial assistance offered to companies and entities. Furthermore, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery efforts, many countries have increased their spending to spur economic growth, adding to this trend.
In recent years, some important efforts have been undertaken to evaluate and propose new approaches to curtail the trade-distorting effects of such policies, notably the launching of the EU-Japan-U.S. trilateral process in December 2017. The trilateral group has developed proposals to strengthen and update existing WTO rules on industrial subsidies, among other related matters. Although these proposals have yet to be finalized and submitted for consideration by other WTO members, they could represent a basis for further work. In an address to the WTO General Council in early March, immediately after taking office as the new Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala emphasized the importance of putting forward and prioritizing a subsidies work program on both domestic support and industrial subsidies.
In order to better understand these developments and associated challenges, as well as identify ways to modernize global rules to more effectively address the myriad of different types of subsidies, the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) will be convening a panel of experts to explore these questions and more:
- Which types of subsidies are of key concern and what reforms are needed?
- What can we learn from recent WTO dispute settlement cases touching on these issues?
- What are the prospects for further WTO work on subsidies and can the EU-Japan-U.S. trilateral proposals serve as a basis for such work?
- Can subsidies work be truly effective without addressing other matters such as anti-competitive behavior and investment restrictions?
- How might the COVID-19 government pandemic recovery expenditures complicate these efforts?
Asia Society Policy Institute Vice President Wendy Cutler will first join Clarisse Morgan, Director of the Rules Division at the World Trade Organization (WTO), in a moderated conversation. This will be followed by a panel discussion that will delve deeper into these issues with Beth Baltzan, Fellow at Open Markets Institute; Ron Lorentzen, Senior International Trade Advisor at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP; and Clete Willems, Partner at Akin Gump.
Clarisse Morgan is Director of the Rules Division of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland. In this capacity she is responsible for managing the WTO Secretariat’s work on all issues relating to various WTO Agreements including the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement. Among other duties in the Division, she has served as Secretary to the Committees on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, Anti-Dumping Practices, and Safeguards; she has been Deputy Secretary and Secretary to the Negotiating Group on Rules, particularly in respect of the fisheries subsidies negotiations.
Beth Baltzan is a fellow at Open Markets Institute and focuses on the impact of monopoly power on trade and its consequences for national security. Beth served as Democratic Counsel to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee from 2012 to 2016, where she worked on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement. Previously, Beth was also Associate General Counsel in the Office of the United States Trade Representative, where she participated in the WTO and other trade agreement negotiations, while also litigating trade disputes.
Ron Lorentzen is Senior International Trade Advisor at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP and provides clients with strategic advice on international trade policy, negotiations and disputes. Previously, Ron served as the lead U.S. negotiator in the GATT Uruguay Round negotiations on subsidies, countervailing measures and antidumping practices; a lead U.S. representative to WTO; the chairman of the OECD Steel Committee; and the co-chairman of the North American Steel Trade Committee. At USTR, Ron was the Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for WTO and Multilateral Affairs, and he later served as Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Enforcement and Compliance.
Clete Willems is a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, where he advises multinational companies, investors, and trade associations on international economic law and policy matters. Previously, Mr. Willems was Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economics and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, where he was a key negotiator with foreign governments, including China and the European Union, and the President’s lead negotiator at the G-7, G-20, and APEC. Prior to joining the White House, Mr. Willems was a trade negotiator and WTO litigator at USTR.
Wendy Cutler (Moderator) is Vice President at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) and the managing director of the Washington, D.C. office. In these roles, she focuses on building ASPI’s presence in the nation’s capital and on leading initiatives that address challenges related to trade, investment and innovation, as well as women’s empowerment in Asia. She joined ASPI following an illustrious career of nearly three decades as a diplomat and negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), where she also served as Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative. During her USTR career, she worked on a range of bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations and initiatives, including the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, the Trans Pacific Partnership, U.S.-China negotiations and the WTO Financial Services negotiations.