Introduction to the WTO dispute settlement system

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1.1 Importance of the WTO dispute settlement system

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The best international agreement is not worth very much if its obligations cannot be enforced when one of the signatories fails to comply with such obligations. An effective mechanism to settle disputes thus increases the practical value of the commitments the signatories undertake in an international agreement. The fact that the Members of the (WTO) established the current dispute settlement system during the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations underscores the high importance they attach to compliance by all Members with their obligations under the WTO Agreement.

Settling disputes in a timely and structured manner is important. It helps to prevent the detrimental effects of unresolved international trade conflicts and to mitigate the imbalances between stronger and weaker players by having their disputes settled on the basis of rules rather than having power determine the outcome. Most people consider the WTO dispute settlement system to be one of the major results of the Uruguay Round. After the entry into force of the WTO Agreement in 1995, the dispute settlement system soon gained practical importance as Members frequently resorted to using this system.



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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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