Participation in dispute settlement proceedings

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9.1 Parties and third parties and principle of confidentiality

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Earlier chapters have already explained that only (WTO) Member governments have direct access to the dispute settlement system either as parties or as third parties.1 In addition, the entire procedure is confidential, which covers the consultations (Article 4.6 of the DSU), the panel procedure until the circulation of the report (Articles 14.1 and 18.2 of the DSU and paragraph 3 of the Working Procedures in Appendix 3 to the DSU), and the proceedings of the Appellate Body (Article 17.10 of the DSU).

It is true that Members may make use of their right to disclose their own submissions to the public (Article 18.2 of the DSU and paragraph 3 of the Working Procedures in Appendix 3 to the DSU). The reports of panels and the Appellate Body also give a description of the proceeding, including the positions taken by the various participants. However, this does not give non-participants any opportunity to make a contribution to the dispute settlement proceeding while it is ongoing (i.e. before decisions are made). For that reason, there is a great deal of interest in the question of who can participate in dispute settlement proceedings.



1. For the details of the participation of third parties at the various stages of a dispute settlement proceeding, see the section on Third parties in consultations, the section on Third parties before the panel, and the section on Third participants at the appellate stage. 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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