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There has been over 300 disputes brought to the World Trade Organization (WTO) since its creation in January 1995 and these disputes cover a wide range of economic activities.

The WTO dispute settlement system is the backbone of today’s multilateral trading regime. It was created by Member governments during the Uruguay Round in the conviction that a stronger, more binding system to settle disputes would help to ensure that the WTO’s carefully negotiated trading rules are respected and enforced. The system, sometimes referred to as the “WTO’s unique contribution to the stability of the global economy”, is based on, but constitutes a major improvement over, the previous GATT dispute settlement system. As such, it has greatly enhanced the stability and predictability of the rules of international trade to the benefit of businesses, farmers, workers and consumers around the world.

The primary purpose of this training guide is to explain the WTO dispute settlement system to an interested person with little or no knowledge of how this system functions. However, with its detailed content, it could also serve as a very useful “handbook” to experienced practitioners of WTO law. It explains the historic evolution of the current system and explores the practices that have arisen in its operation since its entry into force on 1 January 1995.

Special thanks should be addressed to those from the Legal Affairs Division, the Appellate Body Secretariat and the Information and Media Relations Division who have assisted in researching, drafting, editing, proof-reading and designing this publication.

Bruce Wilson
Legal Affairs Division
World Trade Organization

November 2003



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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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