Evaluation of the WTO dispute settlement system: results to date

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12.2 Achievement of the objectives?

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The above statistics support the conclusion that, on the whole, the operation of the dispute settlement system has been a success. The large number of cases in which parties invoked the dispute settlement system in the first eight and a half years of the (WTO) (which is already significantly larger than the number of disputes brought under GATT 1947 during a period of nearly 50 years) suggests that Members have faith in the system. It appears that the WTO dispute settlement system has fulfilled its main function: to contribute to the settlement of trade disputes. Moreover, the reports of panels and the Appellate Body have served to provide clarification of the rights and obligations contained in the covered agreements (Article 3.2 of the DSU).

The fact that many cases do not go through all stages of the process — as one moves forward in the dispute settlement procedure from consultations to panels and the Appellate Body to compliance reviews and finally to the authorization of suspension — is to some extent a positive sign. In most cases, it is not necessary to have recourse to retaliation in the dispute settlement system because most cases are resolved at earlier stages.



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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.

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