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WTO NEWS: 2000 PRESS RELEASES

Press/180
5 June 2000
WTO's Unique system of settling disputes nears 200 cases in 2000

Alcohol, brooms, buses, cars, cement, coconut, coffee, computers, footwear, gasoline, leather, macaroni, rice, scallops, steel, tomatoes, underwear – are among the many products in international trade which have been the subject of nearly 200 disputes brought to the World Trade Organization (WTO) since its creation in January 1995.

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"It is a resounding vote of confidence in the WTO's dispute settlement system that the 136 member governments, both large and small, have so often sought solutions to difficult problems through our organization," said WTO Director General Mike Moore.

"It is the backbone of the multilateral trading system, created by governments themselves in the conviction that a solid mechanism of dispute settlement ensures that carefully negotiated trade rules are respected and enforced. The system is designed to uphold international trading rules, thereby also giving a better deal to workers and consumers.

"The dispute settlement mechanism, moreover, is unique in the international architecture. WTO Member Governments bind themselves to the outcome from panels and, if necessary, the Appellate Body. That's why the WTO has attracted so much attention from all sorts of groups who wish to use this mechanism to advance their interests.

"Settlement, of course, is the key principle here. During the period 1995-1999, for example, 77 disputes were resolved of which 41 were resolved without going to adjudication. Without this system, it would be virtually impossible to maintain the delicate balance of international rights and obligations. Disputes would drag on much longer, have a destabilizing effect on international trade, which, in turn, could poison international relations in general. The system's emphasis on negotiating a settlement could serve the same governments equally well in other areas of international relations."

Low-income nations are enjoying the benefits of the dispute settlement system, which accords the smallest members the same weight as the bigger trading nations. "Although no one can claim that the WTO’s dispute settlement system compensates for unequal economic power distribution in the world, it must be emphasized that this system gives small countries a fair chance, they otherwise would not have, to defend their rights," said Mr Moore. Developing countries as a group have registered 50 of the 194 disputes, with India, Brazil, Mexico and Thailand playing the most active roles. The United States and the European Commission have registered the most complaints at the WTO, with 60 and 50 respectively, and are also the most frequently cited by other governments as not being in compliance with WTO rules.

Note to Editors
[All figures as at 30 May 2000.]

1. An overview of all the 194 disputes is available on the WTO website:
2. A summary of some of the statistics is given below:

Annual Progress of Disputes Back to top

1995 25 cases filed
1996 39 cases filed
1997 47 cases filed
1998 44 cases filed
1999 30 cases filed
2000 (1 Jan – 30 May) 9 cases filed

Breakdown of complaints Back to top

Disputes involving

as Complainant

as
Respondent

with Developing Countries

        

US/EC/Japan

as Complainant

US/EC/Japan

as Respondent

United States

60

42

22

15

EC

50

28

23

11

Japan

8

12

3

0

Developing Countries

50

67

\

\

Some WTO agreements cited in the disputes Back to top

SPS/TBT

Agriculture

Textiles

TRIMS

TRIPS

GATS

26

25

13

15

21

9