DISPUTE SETTLEMENT SYSTEM TRAINING MODULE: CHAPTER
Introduction to the WTO dispute settlement system
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Substantive scope of the dispute settlement system
The (WTO) dispute settlement system applies to all disputes brought under the
WTO Agreements listed in Appendix 1 of the DSU (Article 1.1 of the DSU). In the DSU, these agreements are referred to as the “covered agreements”. The DSU itself and the WTO Agreement (in the sense of Articles I to XVI) are also listed as covered agreements. In many cases brought to the dispute settlement system, the complainant invokes provisions belonging to more than one covered agreement.
The covered agreements also include the so-called Plurilateral Trade Agreements contained in Annex 4 to the WTO Agreement (Appendix 1 of the DSU), which are called “plurilateral” as opposed to “multilateral” because not all WTO Members have signed them. However, the applicability of the DSU to those Plurilateral Trade Agreements is subject to the adoption of a decision by the parties to each of these agreements setting out the terms for the application of the DSU to the individual agreement, including any special and additional rules or procedures (Appendix 1 of the DSU). The Committee on Government Procurement has taken such a decision, but not the Committee on Trade in Civil Aircraft for the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft. Two other plurilateral agreements, the International Dairy Agreement and the International Bovine Meat Agreement, are no longer in force.
applying to all these covered agreements, the DSU provides for a coherent
and integrated dispute settlement system. It puts an end to the former “GATT Ó la
carte”, where each agreement not only had a different set of signatories
but also separate dispute settlement rules.1 Subject
to certain exceptions, the DSU is applicable in a uniform manner to disputes
under all the WTO Agreements. In some instances, there are so-called “special
and additional rules and procedures” on dispute settlement contained in
the covered agreements (Article
1.2 and Appendix
2 of the DSU). These are specific rules and procedures “designed to
deal with the particularities of disputes under a specific covered agreement”.
They take precedence over the rules in the DSU to the extent that there
is a difference between the rules and procedures of the DSU and the special
and additional rules and procedures (Article
1.2 of the DSU). Such a “difference” or conflict between the DSU and
the special rules exists only “where the provisions of the DSU and the
special or additional rules and procedures of a covered agreement cannot
be read as complementing each other” because they are mutually inconsistent
such that adherence to the one provision would lead to a violation of the
other provision.2 Only
in that case and to that extent, do the special additional provisions prevail
and do the DSU rules not apply.