Canadian business groups sound alarm over the future of the World Trade Organization

OTTAWA (December 10, 2019) – A group of Canadian business organizations today urged the federal government to redouble its efforts to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the face of U.S. moves to shut down a key component of its dispute-settlement system.

The WTO plays a critical role in protecting rules-based international trade and resolving disagreements among member countries. However, for several years the United States has blocked reappointments to the WTO’s Appellate Body, which is effectively the last court of appeal in trade disputes.

The Appellate Body normally consists of seven members, of which three are required to hear any case. On December 10, the terms of two of the remaining three adjudicators are set to expire. The Appellate Body will therefore be unable to function, severely undermining the WTO’s dispute-settlement system.

In October 2018, the Government of Canada convened a small, representative group of WTO members, known as the Ottawa Group, in an attempt to promote “meaningful, realistic and pragmatic” reforms to the WTO that would satisfy the interests of all members. To date, however, despite the efforts of the Ottawa Group, the impasse remains.

“We call on all WTO members to engage and intensify efforts to restore the full functionality of the Appellate Body,” the Canadian business organizations said. The group consists of the Business Council of Canada, the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. The four organizations collectively represent many thousands of companies across Canada, employing millions of Canadians.

“For global traders and the workers and families they support, inaction is not an option. In the absence of a fully functioning dispute-settlement system, the World Trade Organization simply cannot do its job of protecting the rights of Canadian exporters and importers,” they said.

“By reducing trade and investment barriers, establishing fair and predictable rules, and resolving disputes, the WTO enabled an enormous expansion in global trade and prosperity. Countless jobs and industries in Canada and around the world depend on the preservation of a rules-based global trading system.”


Since 1871, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters has been helping manufacturers grow at home and, compete around the world. Our focus is to ensure manufacturers are recognized as engines for growth in the economy, with Canada acknowledged as both a global leader and innovator in advanced manufacturing and a global leader in exporting. CME is a member-driven association that directly represents more than 2,500 leading companies who account for an estimated 82 per cent of manufacturing output and 90 per cent of Canada’s exports.


With a broad network of corporate, association and local chamber members representing over 250,000 businesses of all sizes, in all sectors of the economy and in all regions, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the largest, most representative and most influential business association in Canada. Since 1925, our mission is to foster business competitiveness and a strong economic environment that benefits all Canadians by creating the conditions for Canadian business to thrive. We do this by developing well-informed reports and positions on policies and regulations that are critical to creating a competitive and prosperous Canada; by mobilizing our vast and diverse network to advocate for government decisions and programs that strengthen our country and our communities; and by offering essential business services for members by members. For more information visit or follow @CdnChamberofCom on social media.


Founded in 1976, the Business Council of Canada is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization representing business leaders in every region and sector of the country. The Council’s member companies employ 1.7 million Canadians, contribute the largest share of federal corporate taxes, and are responsible for most of Canada’s exports, corporate philanthropy, and private-sector investments in research and development. Through supply chain partnerships, service contracts and mentoring programs, Business Council members support many hundreds of thousands of small businesses and entrepreneurs in communities of all sizes, in every part of Canada.


Stefi Proulx
Director of Communications
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters
C:  613-292-6070 | | @CME_MEC