DISPUTE SETTLEMENT SYSTEM TRAINING MODULE: CHAPTER 6
The process — Stages in a typical WTO dispute settlement case
The DSB must adopt, and the parties must unconditionally accept, the Appellate Body report unless the DSB decides by consensus not to adopt the Appellate Body report within 30 days following its circulation to Members.1 This adoption procedure is without prejudice to the right of Members to express their views on an Appellate Body report (Article 17.14 of the DSU).
Regarding the automaticity of adoption (except where there is a “reverse” consensus), the expression of Members’ opinions and the practical requirement that the Appellate Body report be placed on the DSB agenda, the process is the same as for a panel report, as explained above. However, the deadline for adoption of an Appellate Body report is only 30 days, possibly because no party needs to make up its mind whether to appeal. Article 17.14 also specifically provides that the parties to the dispute must accept the Appellate Body report “unconditionally”, i.e. accept it as resolution of their dispute without further appeal.
Although Article 17.14 does not mention the panel report, it is understood that the Appellate Body report must be adopted together with the panel report because one can understand the overall ruling only by reading both reports together. The DSU also provides in Article 16.4 that the DSB will only consider the panel report for adoption after completion of the appeal. Thus, both reports are placed on the DSB agenda for adoption, and the DSB adopts the Appellate Body report together with the panel report, as upheld, modified or reversed by the Appellate Body report. To the extent that the panel’s conclusions have not been reversed or modified, or have not been appealed, they are binding on the parties.