Evaluation of the WTO dispute settlement system: results to date

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12.1 Statistics: the first eight years of experience

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The first eight and a half years of the operation of the (WTO) dispute settlement system (from January 1995 to June 2003) have produced the following numbers. In total, Members have filed 295 requests for consultations over that period. In 124 of those 295 disputes, or in 42% of the cases, a developing country Member was the complainant,. Since 2000, developing country Members were the complainants in nearly two thirds of all complaints (69 out of 110). In one year, 2001, developing country Members filed three quarters of all requests for consultations.

The annual number of requests for consultations peaked in 1997 with 50 requests, then fell to 40 in 1998 and, since then, has fluctuated between 23 and 37. The covered agreement most frequently invoked by complainants has been the GATT 1994. In a distant second place are the SCM Agreement, the Agreement on Agriculture and the Anti-Dumping Agreement. So far, the TRIPS Agreement and the GATS have rarely been invoked as the basis of a dispute. Very often, complainants invoke more than one agreement in their request for consultations.

The DSB established 110 panels between January 1995 and June 2003, which shows that consultations are often able to settle the disputes. In the same period, the DSB adopted 71 panel reports and 47 Appellate Body reports. While the parties appealed nearly every single panel report in the early years of the dispute settlement system, the appeal rate has significantly decreased over the past few years.

There have been 14 compliance disputes under Article 21.5 of the DSU. Only seven times has the DSB granted authorization to a complainant to suspend obligations, and in all seven cases, arbitration took place because the respondent disagreed with the complainant’s proposal for the suspension.



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This interactive training module is based on the “Handbook on the WTO Dispute Settlement System” published in 2004. The second edition of this handbook published in 2017 can be found at here.

Chapters done:

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