Introduction to the WTO dispute settlement system

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1.6 Developing country Members and the dispute settlement system

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The DSU also addresses the particular status of developing country Members of the (WTO), although the approach taken differs from that of the other covered agreements. Unlike those agreements, which set out the Members’ substantive trade obligations, the DSU chiefly specifies the procedures under which such substantive obligations can be enforced. Accordingly, in the dispute settlement system, special and differential treatment1 does not take the form of reducing obligations, providing enhanced substantive rights or granting transition periods. Rather, it takes a procedural form, for instance, by making available to developing country Members additional or privileged procedures, or longer or accelerated deadlines. These rules of special and differential treatment will be mentioned in subsequent chapters in the relevant procedural context in which they apply. The rules of special and differential treatment and other aspects of the developing countries’ role in the dispute settlement system are also the subject of a separate chapter.2



1. “Special and differential treatment” is a technical term used throughout the WTO Agreement to designate those provisions that are applicable only to developing country Members.  back to text

2. See the sections on Developing country Members in dispute settlement — theory and practice, Special and differential treatment and Legal assistance  back to text




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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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