Negotiations to improve dispute settlement procedures

The Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), the WTO's “rule book” for settling trade disputes between Members, has been the subject of review since the 1990s. The subsequent mandate given to Members was simple: “agree to negotiations on improvements and clarifications of the Dispute Settlement Understanding”.

The mandate and history

In 1994, Members of what was then the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) adopted a decision at their Ministerial Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco to complete a full review of dispute settlement rules and procedures under the newly-created WTO within four years after the entry into force of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization.  Members were to take a decision at that time on whether to continue, modify or terminate such dispute settlement rules and procedures.

Members did not complete the review on time, and the talks failed to advance after the 1999 Ministerial Conference in Seattle.  At their 2001 Ministerial Conference in Doha, where the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations were launched, Members agreed to continue the review on improvements and clarifications to the DSU. Members also agreed that the review would not be part of the DDA “single” undertaking — i.e. that the review would not be tied to the other issues under negotiation, nor subject to conclusion of the DDA.

The Doha mandate also set a deadline of May 2003 to conclude the review. In July 2003, the WTO's General Council extended the deadline to May 2004. A further extension was agreed by the General Council on 1 August 2004 without setting a new deadline.


Current work

The Dispute Settlement Understanding review is currently being carried out within a framework of 12 “thematic” issues covering a broad range of proposals:

  • mutually agreed solutions
  • third party rights
  • strictly confidential information
  • sequencing
  • post-retaliation
  • transparency and amicus curiae briefs
  • timeframes
  • remand
  • panel composition
  • flexibility and member control
  • effective compliance
  • developing country interests, including special and differential treatment.

Since November 2016, the negotiating group has undertaken work on these issues in a sequential and focused manner. Under this approach of sequential focused work, the chair holds a series of meetings dedicated to one of these issues, after which the negotiating group proceeds to work on another issue. The negotiating group has already conducted focused work on several issues.

The current chair of the DSB in Special Session is .

Search Documents Online
DSU negotiations documents use the code TN/DS/* (where * takes additional values)
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  • Reports by the Chairman to the Trade Negotiations Committee (Document code TN/DS/* and keyword “Report by the Chairman”)  > search
  • Minutes of the Special Sessions (Document code TN/DS/M/*)  > search
  • Working documents of the DSU negotiations (Document code TN/DS/W/*)  > search
  • The DSB decision to extend the review deadline, December 1998 (Document code WT/DSB/M/52)  > search



DSB special session meetings