AB members to be given full-time remuneration?

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 14 Mar 2001 - The idea of ‘remunerating’ the members of the Appellate Body on a full-time basis is being promoted at the World Trade Organization.

The seven members of the AB are now paid a monthly retainer, travel expenses, per diems and communication costs etc, and generously too.

In a statement at the Dispute Settlement Body this week, the chairman Amb. Roger Farrell of New Zealand raised the question of where a change to full-time employment would be warranted, posing it as one in the context of setting in motion a process for selection of three retiring members (who would not be eligible for another term), to whom when being appointed, the full-time option could be held out.

Under the AB rules, each appeal is heard by a division of three members, and those hearing every appeal are chosen by rotation.

Farrell cited to the DSB secretariat figures to say that though now employed on a part-time basis, in practice, work on the AB had come very close to a full-time job. Based on an 8-hour working day, he said, four of the AB members in year 2000 had worked more than 100% full-time - on a 12-month work year of 320 working days - the figures for the four ranged from 104 to 117 percent.

The statement that Farrell made and distributed did not say what was the work load for the other three.

But the workload, the DSB chair said, raised the question of when the AB members should be moved from their existing part-time employment to full-time, involving a salary and a pension scheme. Other plans to reduce the work load could be to expand the size of the AB, requiring an amendment of the DSU, whereas moving to full- time employment would not.

The subject, he said, should be discussed initially in the DSB, though any action would need to be decided by the General Council, assuming the functions of the Ministerial Conference. It would involve budgetary consequences and would need recommendations from the Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration.

Though the issue could not be decided on budget considerations alone, Mr.Farrel cited a secretariat view, on the basis of a 10-year simulation, and claimed that moving the AB members to full-time employment, with salary plus pension, would be ‘budget neutral’ compared to the existing part-time remuneration package. He even made the claim that there could be savings.

It was not clear from his statement whether any budget exercise was done on the immediate costs over the next one or two years - rather than the simulation exercise over 10 years.

Before the members, and their governments decide, perhaps some outside assessment could be made on how far the work load of the AB has increased by the way that they virtually confirmed every panel ruling, but made changes in parts of the rulings of the panel (without upsetting the final conclusion) and created further work by such statements in their rulings as “we disagree” (with the panel), without setting out why?

In regard to filling up the three vacancies of members whose terms end on 10 December, the DSB chair proposed (for decision at the next meeting) a time-frame for appointment:

·        nominations from 17 April to 15 June,

·        start of work of the selection committee on 22 June, and

·        possible decision by the DSB on the appointments by 27 July 2001

The selection committee - to interview candidates, sound members on likely candidates for consensus and the recommendation to the General Council - consists of the WTO Director-General, the chairs of the DSB, General Council, and the Councils for Goods, Services and TRIPS.

Under Art. 17.2 of the DSU, each AB member is to serve a four-year term, and is eligible for reappointment for another term. Of the first seven, the terms of the three (chosen by lot) were set at 2 years, with the possibility of re- election for another term.

The three retiring members are Mr.Florentino  Feliciano (from the Philippines), Mr Julio Lacarte-Muro  (Uruguay) and Claus-Dieter Ehlermann (EU-Germany).-SUNS4855