Stephen Kho Discusses WTO Dispute Numbers with POLITICO

Akin Gump international trade partner Stephen Kho commented on the number of trade dispute cases filed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the Obama administration compared to those brought by the Clinton and Bush administrations in POLITICO’s article “Barack Obama trade enforcement tally no tougher than George W. Bush’s.”

According to the article, since 2009, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has filed 15 cases at the WTO, whereas the Bush administration filed 24 cases, and 68 cases were filed by the Clinton administration. Obama administration officials argue that, aside from constraining factors such as budget cuts and a dearth of resources, dispute cases are now far more complex than before and, therefore, should not be compared with the larger number of disputes filed in the earlier years of the WTO.

A former associate at the USTR General Counsel’s office during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, Kho noted that, although the Bush administration only brought one case against China before 2005, it filed six in its last three years. He said he was skeptical of the claim that trade disputes are more complicated and resource-intensive now than in the past, adding, “The numbers [15 cases filed] speak for themselves. But dispute settlement is just one of several enforcement tools that the U.S. government can use.”