05 September 1997
WTO rebukes Fischler over democracy swipe

THE World Trade Organisation (WTO) slammed Franz Fischler, European farm commissioner, over his suggestions on Wednesday that the WTO lacked democratic accountability.

Renato Ruggiero, WTO director-general, said the introduction of a “political element” into its dispute settlement procedures would undermine them.

The comments followed the WTO trade disputes panel ruling that the eight-year European Union (EU) ban on hormone-treated meat was illegal.

Ruggiero said that procedures had been agreed by all WTO members and approved by EU national parliaments.

Fischlers comments also incurred the wrath of Europes trade commissioner, Sir Leon Brittan, who is understood to have insisted in a letter to the farm commissioner that there was no democratic deficit in the WTO. He added that the EU had always been a strong advocate of the bodys dispute settlement mechanisms.

Fischlers office said he had not intended to call into question the WTOs decision-making processes. The reference to democratic control reflected the EUs view that, on a non-discriminatory basis, it had the right to set its own consumer protection levels.

  • Financial Times 05/09/97 page 4