At the introductory session for the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ambassador Robert Lighthizer acknowledged that the WTO is an important institution but then proceeded in his opening statement to criticize the organization and its focus. He stated that the WTO is “losing its essential focus on negotiation and becoming a litigation-centered organization,” claiming that member countries “seem to believe they can gain concessions through lawsuits that they could never get at the negotiating table.”
Lighthizer argued that the WTO “cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to the few, and that others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status. There is something wrong, in our view, when five of the six richest countries in the world presently claim developing country status.” He opined that “it is impossible to negotiate new rules when many of the current ones are not being followed” and that some members are “intentionally circumventing” their obligations. He indicated that addressing these concerns and the transparency of the WTO will be a top priority for the United States.