Historic development of the WTO dispute settlement system

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2.2 Major changes in the Uruguay Round

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As part of the results of the Uruguay Round, the DSU introduced a significantly strengthened dispute settlement system. It provided more detailed procedures for the various stages of a dispute, including specific time-frames. As a result, the DSU contains many deadlines, so as to ensure prompt settlement of disputes. The new dispute settlement system is also an integrated framework that applies to all covered agreements with only minor variations.1

Arguably, its most important innovation is that the DSU eliminated the right of individual parties, typically the one whose measure is being challenged, to block the establishment of panels or the adoption of a report. Now, the DSB automatically establishes panels and adopts panel and Appellate Body reports unless there is a consensus not to do so. This “negative” consensus rule contrasts sharply with the practice under the GATT 1947 and also applies, in addition to the establishment of panels and the adoption of panel and Appellate Body reports, to the authorization of countermeasures against a party which fails to implement a ruling.2

Other important new features of the (WTO) dispute settlement system are the appellate review of panel reports and a formal surveillance of implementation following the adoption of panel (and Appellate Body) reports.



1. See section A single set of rules and procedures  back to text

2. See section Decision-making in the DSB  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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