Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

DISPUTE SETTLEMENT: INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS

Secretariat’s informal consultations concerning the panel process

The WTO has one of the most active international dispute settlement mechanisms in the world, having issued more than 300 dispute settlement reports in 16 years. Settlement of disputes is one of the core activities of the WTO. The dispute settlement mechanism has earned a reputation the world over for high-quality results and has produced a substantial body of case law. It nevertheless requires the dedication of significant resources of the WTO Secretariat as well as of disputing parties.

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At the request of the Director-General, Deputy Director-General Alejandro Jara initiated in 2010 a process of informal consultations with WTO Members, panelists, trade law practitioners and Secretariat experts involved in the WTO dispute settlement system with a view to exploring whether it is possible to find efficiency gains in the panel process so as to reduce the burden on Members and the Secretariat. His overriding approach was that any improvements would have to be consistent with existing rules and that changes could be contemplated only if they did not involve amending the DSU.  Any adjustments would also have to be effected without undermining the excellent reputation and high quality output of the system.  

It is anticipated that ideas brought forward by Members and others in the context of these consultations, such as agreed page limits for executive summaries, time limits for oral argument, and panel hearings following two exchanges of written submissions instead of one such exchange, will be implemented by individual panels on an ad hoc basis, with the agreement of the disputing parties in the particular case. 

DDG Jara’s continuing consultations are complemented by efforts within the Secretariat to more generally promote harmonized practices in respect of panel proceedings.

> DDG Jara reports on consultations to enhance efficiency of panels

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