ISLAMABAD, May 21: The developing countries, including Pakistan, are facing problems of hiring law firms to advise and represent them in WTO-related cases.

The exorbitant fees of these law firms, ranging from $200 to $600 an hour, restricts the developing countries from taking their issues to the WTO dispute settlement body for seeking relief.

Talking to Dawn on Tuesday at a workshop on “Dispute Settlement Understanding Mechanism”, organized by the commerce ministry, professor of law at the University of Manchester, UK, Asif H. Qureshi, said litigation at international level involved a distant forum in which legal expertise involved is US and Eurocentric, which is highly specialized and quite expensive.

Citing an example, he said that lawyers for Kodak and Fuji in the Japan-Photographic film case respectively charged their clients fees in excess of $10 million.

Such fees are unthinkable for most of the developing countries, he said and added even for a relatively small case, a law firm quoted a figure of $200,000 for representing the developing country only through the panel stage.

Answering a question, he said there is less possibility in WTO to assist the developing countries to avail facility of international law forum in the dispute settlement cases.

The scholar recommended to Pakistani government that the alternative to this costly system was to train local lawyers with WTO expertise.

The total number of disputes cases lodged at the WTO appellate body was around 290 cases. Of these 184 cases were filed by developed countries, while 103 came from developing countries. The figures for the developed countries were large as compared to the developing countries, which showed the potential of developed countries to protect their interest.

He said that developing countries face three primary challenges in the dispute settlement system- lack of legal expertise in WTO law and the capacity to organize information concerning trade barriers and opportunities to challenge them; lack of financial resources, including the hiring of outside legal counsel to effectively use the WTO legal system and fear of political and economic pressure from the United States and European Commission undermining their ability to bring WTO claims.