Introduction to the WTO dispute settlement system

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1.2 The Dispute Settlement Understanding

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The current dispute settlement system was created as part of the WTO Agreement during the Uruguay Round. It is embodied in the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes, commonly referred to as the Dispute Settlement Understanding and abbreviated “DSU” (referred to as such in this guide). The DSU, which constitutes Annex 2 of the WTO Agreement, sets out the procedures and rules that define today’s dispute settlement system. It should however be noted that, to a large degree, the current dispute settlement system is the result of the evolution of rules, procedures and practices developed over almost half a century under the GATT 1947.

Explanatory note: The annexes of the WTO Agreement contain all the specific multilateral agreements. In other words, the WTO Agreement incorporates all agreements that have been concluded in the Uruguay Round. References in this guide to the “WTO Agreement” in general, therefore, include the totality of these rules. However, the WTO Agreement itself, if taken in isolation from its annexes, is a short Agreement containing 16 Articles that set out the institutional framework of the (WTO) as an international organization. Specific references to the WTO Agreement (e.g. “Article XVI of the WTO Agreement”) relate to these rules.



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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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