return to Instructional Modules #9 | return to Instructional Modules #18 |Instructional Module Index  |



Without a means of settling disputes, the rules-based system would be worthless because the rules could not be enforced.  The WTO’s procedure underscores the rule of law, and it makes the trading system more secure and predictable. The system is based on clearly-defined rules, with timetables for completing a case.

                                                WTO publication Trading Into the Future


This note provides information on the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) in order to facilitate access to and use of these services.  It covers:

  • The dispute settlement process

  • How to prepare for a dispute settlement proceeding.  

  • Principles of WTO jurisprudence 

  • The role of the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism  

Part I  
WTO Dispute Settlement Proceedings – the Process  

WTO members have agreed that if they believe fellow-members are violating trade rules, they will use the multilateral system of settling disputes instead of taking action unilaterally. That means they should abide by the agreed procedures, and respect judgments.  The WTO’s dispute settlement agreement is formally known as the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU).  The DSU provides the primary legal means of settling trade related conflicts in the WTO.  Settlement of disputes is the responsibility of the Dispute Settlement Body (composed of all Members of the WTO). The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) has the sole authority to establish “panels” of experts to consider the case, and to accept or reject the panels’ findings or the results of an appeal. It monitors the implementation of the rulings and recommendations, and has the power to authorize retaliation when a country does not comply with a ruling.

Typically, a dispute arises when a country adopts a trade policy measure or takes some action that another member considers to be a violation of a WTO agreement.  A dispute may also arise if a member feels that, as a result of another country’s action, it has been denied WTO benefits to which it is entitled.  A third group of countries can also declare that they have an interest in the case and, when that is the case, they enjoy some rights as Third Parties.

A procedure for settling disputes existed under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which preceded the WTO, but it had no fixed timetables, rulings were easier to block, and many cases dragged on for a long time inconclusively. The DSU introduced a more structured process with more clearly defined stages in the procedure and times limits for these stages.  The agreement emphasizes that prompt settlement is essential if the WTO is to function effectively. It sets out in considerable detail the procedures and the timetable to be followed in resolving disputes. A case that runs its full course should normally take no more than about one year to a first ruling and15 months if there is an appeal. If the case is considered urgent (e.g. if perishable goods are involved), then the allowed time is shorter.

Under the DSU the country losing a case cannot unilaterally block the adoption of the ruling.  Under the previous GATT procedure, rulings could only be adopted by consensus, meaning that a single objection (including from the country which lost the case) could block the ruling. Under the DSU the situation is now reversed; rulings are automatically adopted, unless there is a consensus to reject a ruling.  Any country that wants to block a ruling has to persuade all other WTO members (including its adversary in the case) to share its view.

Although much of the procedure resembles a court or tribunal, the preferred solution is for the countries to settle the dispute by themselves. Before a country can request the formation of a dispute settlement panel, it must consult with the other side for a minimum period of 60 days after it first requests a formal consultation. Therefore, formal consultations invoked under the specific provisions of the DSU are the first stage of the process.  Even when the case has progressed to other stages, consultation, negotiation and mediation remain an option for resolving the issue.

Whether to bring the case  
What is often the first decision in normal litigation is sometimes the last phase of case preparation in the WTO.  There are other institutional means of resolving most trade disputes, some through the institutional mechanisms of the WTO itself.  Parties are expected to first seek to resolve dispute through bilateral discussion in capitals before invoking any of the WTO mechanisms.  Most of the non-DSU WTO mechanisms for resolving disputes are easier and quicker to use than the DSU process.  These mechanisms include informal consultations, raising the matter in the meetings of the relevant WTO committee meetings such as the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) or Agriculture Committees and using some of the dispute settlement tools in specific agreements, such as the Subsidies Agreement.  The only WTO problem solving tool that may be more time consuming than the DSU process is the option of seeking to negotiate new WTO rules, disciplines or tariff concessions; seeking negotiations in the context of a new round of multilateral trade negotiations will be particularly time consuming.  However, the negotiation of new rules may be the only practical way to resolve some problems.   

All of the approaches in the WTO to resolving disputes, including consultations and panels, involve some variant on the negotiation process.  As a consequence, they will require careful preparation, including verification of facts and analysis of the validity of legal arguments.  For this reason, a party must undertake much of the research and analysis that is required for preparing a panel brief before it gets to the point of making a final decision whether or not to request a panel.   

There is also a practical reason to begin the brief preparation work early in the process of resolving a dispute.  As result of the Uruguay Round, the time frame for panels is so tight that a party cannot normally do an adequate job in a short period of time, especially given the limited resources available to most governments.  Nevertheless, limited governmental resources also means that it is unlikely that a full-scaled brief, which can runs to several hundred pages or more, will be completely prepared before a decision is made to request a panel. 

In deciding whether to request a panel, parties should also carefully consider that the panel process raises the profile of the dispute and normally generate increased media and public attention.  Such developments sometimes make it more difficult to settle the matter by negotiation.   

The WTO negotiators were very cognizant that formal dispute settlement through litigation is not always the best outcome.  Article 7 of the DSU states that  

Before bringing a case, a Member shall exercise its judgment as to whether action under these procedures would be fruitful. The aim of the dispute settlement mechanism is to secure a positive solution to a dispute. A solution mutually acceptable to the parties to a dispute and consistent with the covered agreements is clearly to be preferred. In the absence of a mutually agreed solution, the first objective of the dispute settlement mechanism is usually to secure the withdrawal of the measures concerned if these are found to be inconsistent with the provisions of any of the covered agreements. The provision of compensation should be resorted to only if the immediate withdrawal of the measure is impracticable and as a temporary measure pending the withdrawal of the measure which is inconsistent with a covered agreement.  The last resort which this Understanding provides to the Member invoking the dispute settlement procedures is the possibility of suspending the application of concessions or other obligations under the covered agreements on a discriminatory basis vis-à-vis the other Member, subject to authorization by the DSB of such measures.  [Italics added]

Consultations  (up to 60 days)  
Before taking any other actions, the countries in a dispute have to talk to each other to see if they can settle their differences by themselves. If that fails, they can also ask the WTO director-general to mediate or try to help in any other way (So called “good offices”).  The consultations also offer a country an opportunity to assess the merits of the other country’s case and to clarify the facts.  To facilitate the process, the complaining country may sometimes submit written questions that it wants the defending country to answer during the consultations.  The countries may hold more than one round of consultations if they find the process informative or if they think they may be able to reach a settlement.

Consultations are not always followed by a request for a panel.  Since sometimes the threat of action is more potent than the action itself, consultations may provide information and leverage for negotiations that lead to a successful resolution of the dispute. On occasion, a complaining party may learn from the consultation process about weaknesses in its arguments or damaging facts; either situation could lead to a decision not to press the matter.  

Panels (up to 45 days for a panel to be appointed, plus 6 months for the panel to conclude).

If consultations fail, the complaining country can ask for a panel to be appointed. The country against whom a case has been brought can block the creation of a panel once, but when the DSB meets for a second time, the appointment can no longer be blocked (unless there is a consensus against appointing the panel).  All Parties are involved in selection of the Panel from a list of qualified persons.

Officially, the panel is helping the DSB make rulings or recommendations. But because the panel’s report can only be rejected by consensus in the DSB, its conclusions are difficult to overturn. The panel’s findings have to be based on the agreements cited.

The panel’s final report should normally be given to the parties to the dispute within six months. In cases of urgency, including those concerning perishable goods, the deadline is shortened to three months.

The role of the WTO Secretariat during the dispute settlement process is to assist panels.  In particular, the Secretariat assists with legal, historical and procedural aspect of the case and provides secretarial and technical support.  In particular, the Secretariat researches issues and prepares draft report language.  The Secretariat also assists WTO members regarding dispute settlement questions by answering technical questions regarding the process and the WTO agreements.  Because developing country members may need special legal advice, the Secretariat can upon request assign a qualified legal expert from its staff to work with a country.   Such assignments are on made in a manner that ensures the Secretariat ‘s continued impartiality.   

Selecting panelists in the WTO is equivalent to selecting a judge and jury.  In order to facilitate the panel formation process, the DSU requires the WTO Secretariat to maintain an indicative list of governmental and non-governmental individuals who are suppose to be qualified to be panelists.  Furthermore, the DSU rules provide that if there is no agreement on panelists within 20 days after the establishment of the panel, the Director–General of the WTO, at the request of either party, can determine the composition of a panel.  Therefore, a party cannot block the proceeding indefinitely by rejecting panelists.  

As panels can differ in composition, outlook and expertise, prospective panelists are scrutinized closely and parties can reject prospective panelists in advance.  Panelists may have decided prior cases in ways that might influence the present one, they may have very little expertise in the subject matter, they may come from countries known not to be neutral on the subject, or they may have personalities that are not disposed to neutrality.  Given the role the WTO Secretariat staff plays, if the matter is one on which the Secretariat is known to have an opinion, a party may decide it wants a panel composed of independent minders individuals. Despite its status as a ­­ global institution, the WTO is really a rather small community, and reputations are always accessible as in a local court.  Parties chose their presenters with care since panel proceedings involve small numbers of people, can be relatively informal and personalities do count. 

Standing and Assessments of damage, economic injury or harm  
The need to show economic injury or harm to potential export or trade interests varies depending on the circumstances in a dispute settlement proceeding.   The right to initiate a complaint under the DSU (i.e., the standing requirement) is not stringent.  The DSU grants WTO members broad discretion in deciding whether they have sufficient “legal interest” to bring a case.   Article 3.3 of the DSU indicates that if a member “considers” that benefits accruing to it directly or indirectly under a WTO Agreement are being impaired by another Member’s measures, it can use the DSU process.  Article 3.7 implies that it is up to the member to determine whether in its “judgment” bringing a case would be fruitful.   

Nevertheless, under Article 4.11 of the DSU, a Member wishing to join in multiple consultations must have "a substantial trade interest", and under Article 10.2 of the DSU, a third party must have "a substantial interest" in the matter before becoming a third party in a panel proceeding.   Further, the ability of a complaining party to show economic harm is important in negotiating compensation or taking retaliatory measures in the event a country fails to withdraw a WTO inconsistent measure after an unfavorable panel ruling.  Article 22.3 requires the complaining party to take into account the trade involved, the importance of such trade to it, and the broader economic elements or consequences.  Article 22.4 of the DSU requires that the level of retaliation authorized by the DSB must be equivalent to the level of WTO benefits denied the complaining party.  In the WTO context retaliation takes the form of suspension of trade concession the complaining party has provided in the past.  The role of experts in establishing economic harm or injury is noted below.  The issue is of course even more important in cases involving the subsidies, dumping or safeguard measures.  

Burden of Proof  
In preparing for WTO litigation, a party must consider which party has the burden of proof.  The Appellant Body has stated that:  

            …the burden of proof rests upon the party, whether complaining or defending, who asserts the affirmative of a particular claim or defence.  If that party adduces evidence sufficient to raise a presumption that what is claimed is true, the burden then shifts to the other party, who will fail unless it adduces sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption.

In the context of the GATT 1994 and the WTO Agreement, precisely how much and precisely what kind of evidence will be required to establish such presumption will necessarily vary from measure to measure, provision to provision, and case to case. (Appellate Report, United States –Measure Affecting Imports of Woven Wool Shirts and Blouses from India, WT/DS33/AB/R and Corr. 1, adopted 23 May 1997, at 335.  

However, once a complaining party proves that a measure infringes a WTO Agreement, Article 8 of the DSU provides that the infringement is presumed to have harmed the complaining party and deprived it of benefits to which it was entitled.  In WTO terms, the infringement has nullified and impaired WTO benefits.  In this situation, the burden of proof falls on the defending party to rebut that presumption.  Article 8 of the DSU states that:  

In cases where there is an infringement of the obligations assumed under a covered agreement, the action is considered prima facie to constitute a case of nullification or impairment. This means that there is normally a presumption that a breach of the rules has an adverse impact on other Members parties to that covered agreement, and in such cases, it shall be up to the Member against whom the complaint has been brought to rebut the charge.  

The DSU process is also available to a country that feel that a trade measure of another country is denying WTO benefits to which it is entitled even though the measure itself does not violate any WTO Agreement.  This situation is called “non-violation nullification and impairment” and the complaining country has to prove that it is being harmed by the measure.  A party may also complain if it feels that a general situation rather than a specific measure is denying it WTO benefits.

The below charts summarizes the approximate time periods for each of the stages of a WTO dispute settlement proceeding.

Dispute Settlement Time Line

The approximate periods for each stage of a dispute settlement procedure are target figures and can be extended somewhat. In addition, the countries can settle their dispute themselves at any stage. Totals for each stage are approximate.

60 days

Consultations, mediation, etc

45 days

Panel established by DSU and appointment of panelists

6 months

Final panel report to parties

3 weeks

Final panel report to WTO members

60 days

Dispute Settlement Body adopts report
(if no appeal)

Total = 1 year

(without appeal)

60-90 days

Appeals report

30 days

Dispute Settlement Body adopts appeals report

Total = 1 year

 3 months

(with appeal)

Steps in the Panel Process

The DSU describes in some detail how the panels are to work. The main stages are:

Before the first hearing: The panel will meet for an organizational meeting at which it sets a schedule for the case.   Each side in the dispute presents its case in writing to the panel. These written submissions are essentially legal “briefs” in which the parties state the facts, the findings that they want the panel to make and the legal arguments supporting their position.

First hearing: At the first sustentative meeting of the panel: the complaining country (or countries), the responding country, and those that have announced they have an interest in the dispute, make their case.  The complaining party will present its case and make its oral arguments first, followed by the responding country and then the third parties.  The first hearing may run two to three days, with panel meeting in several sessions to hear the presentation.

Second hearing-Rebuttals: Following the first hearing, the parties will usually have two to three weeks to submit written rebuttals.  One to two weeks later, the Panel will hold a second meeting at which the parties present oral rebuttal arguments.  The defending party has the right to present its statement first at this meeting.  Third parties will not participate at the panel’s second meeting.  During oral presentations, the panel may interrupt with questions for the presenter. The panel also at any time has the right to ask the parties to submit written answers to questions posed during or outside of hearing.

Experts: if one side raises scientific or other technical matters, the panel may consult experts or appoint an expert review group to prepare an advisory report.

First draft: the panel usually submits within two to four weeks after the second hearing the descriptive (factual and argument) sections of its report to the two sides, giving them two weeks to comment. This report does not include findings and conclusions.

Interim report: The panel then submits an interim report to the two sides, including its findings and conclusions.  The parties will have one week to ask for a review.

Review: The period of review must not exceed two weeks. During that time, the panel may hold additional meetings with the two sides.  To ensure transparency, presentations to the panel are made only in the presence of both sides and all written submissions, including comments on the descriptive part of the report and the response to questions, are given to both sides.

Final report: A final report is submitted to the two sides and three weeks later, it is circulated to all WTO members. If the panel decides that the disputed trade measure is inconsistent with a WTO agreement or an obligation, it recommends that the measure be brought into conformity with WTO rules. It does not tell the Parties exactly how to do this.   This is left to the discretion of the country concerned.  The panel may however suggest how this could be done.  If the panel finds that the trade measure is consistent with the relevant WTO agreements, but that the measure has denied the complaining party WTO benefits, it may recommend a solution, but the defending country cannot be required to withdraw its measure.

The report becomes a ruling: Once Members have had 20 days to consider a circulated report, the report can be considered for adoption by the DSB, unless it is appealed.  The DSB must adopt the report within 60 days unless there is a consensus to reject it.  The adopted report with a recommendation to bring a measure into conformity, if appropriate, becomes the ruling of the DSB.

Appealing a Panel Decision: Either side can appeal a panel’s ruling. Sometimes both sides do so.  Appeals have to be based on points of law such as legal interpretation — they cannot request reexamination of existing evidence or examination of new evidence.

Each appeal is heard by three members of a permanent seven-member Appellate Body set up by the DSB (DSB).  Members of the Appellate Body have four-year terms.  They have to be individuals with recognized standing in the field of law and international trade, not affiliated with any government.

The appeal can uphold, modify or reverse any of the panel’s legal findings and conclusions.  Normally appeals should not last more than 60 days, with an absolute maximum of 90 days.  In other words, the Appellate Body should normally issue a report within 60 days from the date the notice of appeal is filed.

The DSB has to accept (i.e., adopt) the panel report, as modified by the ruling of the Appellate Body, within 30 days following circulation of the Appellate Body’s report unless there is a consensus to reject it.  

After the DSB Ruling  
After DSB adoption of a report in which a country’s trade measure has been found to violate its WTO obligations, the country is required to act on the recommendations in the report and bring the measure into compliance with its obligations.  The DSU stresses that “prompt compliance with recommendations or rulings of the DSB… is essential in order to ensure effective resolution of disputes to the benefit of all Members”.  The country must state its intention to comply at a DSB meeting held within 30 days of the report’s adoption. If complying with the recommendation immediately proves impractical, the member will be given a “reasonable period of time” to do so.  Article 21 of the DSU provides that the “reasonable period of time” can be (a) the time proposed by the losing country, if the DSB approves,  (b) a time period mutually agreed to by the parties or (c) a time period determined through arbitration.   Article 23 also indicates as guidance to the arbitrator that the period of time should not normally exceed 15 months.  To date in most WTO disputes the losing party has brought its measure into compliance.

If a losing party fails to act within a reasonable period of time, it has to enter into negotiations with the complaining country (or countries) in order to determine mutually acceptable compensation — for instance, tariff reductions in areas of particular interest to the complaining side.  If after 20 days, no satisfactory compensation is agreed, the complaining side may ask the DSB for permission to impose limited trade sanctions (“suspend concessions or obligations”) against the other side. The DSB should grant this authorization within 30 days of the expiry of the “reasonable period of time” unless there is a consensus against the request.  If the two sides cannot agree on what constitutes “a reasonable period of time” or the level of compensation, the complaining country may request an arbitrator to decide what a “reasonable period of time” is or the appropriate amount of compensation/trade retaliation to be authorized by the DSB.   If a country has taken steps to comply with a panel’s findings, but the complaining party does not feel that they are adequate, the complaining party can have the original panel review the measures adopted and rule on whether they are adequate enough to bring the losing country into compliance.

In principle, the sanctions should be imposed in the same sector as the dispute. If this is not practical or if it would not be effective, the sanctions can be imposed in a different sector of the same agreement. In turn, if this is not effective or practicable and if the circumstances are serious enough, the action can be taken under another agreement. The objective is to minimize the chances of actions spilling over into unrelated sectors while at the same time allowing the actions to be effective.

The DSB monitors how adopted rulings and recommendations are implemented. Any outstanding case remains on its agenda until the issue is resolved.                                                            

Part II  
A Hands on Guide for Preparing for WTO Dispute Settlement Proceedings

The second part of this paper focuses on some considerations that may be helpful to a person who is involved in the process of preparing a case for WTO dispute settlement or in the decision to initiate a case.

Structuring a Legal Argument  
A cogent legal argument is the key to achieving a successful outcome for your case.  Legal arguments normally contain a series of factors presented in such a way as to lead directly to a logical conclusion.  Arguments presented in legal briefs should begin with a statement of the facts of the case.  This should include all relevant facts to the matter at hand, not just those that support your argument.  Facts that are inconvenient for your argument can be distinguished or explained during your analysis and argument.  The presentation of the facts should be as exhaustive as necessary in order to fully inform the reader of the relevant matters which impact on the issues at hand.   

Following a presentation of the facts the legal brief should then set out a statement of the issues before the Panel.  These should be carefully thought out so that they are presented in a way that highlights and makes clear the legal arguments you will make.  The issues are the legal subject matter of the case and should clearly reference any laws that are in question.   In some cases it may be preferable to write the issues section last after having fully analyzed the arguments.  In others you will need a clear understanding of all the issues before beginning your analysis.  In most cases, issues sections may need to be refined following a full exploration of facts, analysis and argument by the brief writer.  Identifying the appropriate issues for you case and structuring the issue statement well can be crucial to increasing the persuasiveness of your argument.  

Analysis and argument bring together the facts and issues in a way that establishes your claims either as complainant or defendant.  This section should analyze the facts and legal principles involved and set out clear arguments that support your position.  Arguments based on precedents from similar previous cases are fundamental to substantiating your claims about the legal issues.  You should also use this section to rebut arguments that you anticipate from the other side.  Legal analysis should be clear, tightly written and apply the appropriate legal principles and cases to the facts.   

Conclusions should follow from the arguments and should flow in a natural and logical progression from the analysis and argument.  Each element of your conclusions should be substantiated by your analysis and arguments.  Conclusions should give the Panel a clear indication of the findings that you feel it should make and the logical results of such findings. 

Analysis of facts  
At the same time you undertake the legal research, you should verify the facts and sort and supplement them as necessary. In a WTO proceeding presenting clear and convincing facts that support the legal arguments is very important. Visual aids can be useful, but cannot substitute for a clearly written and articulated factual presentation to which panelists can refer on when they meet together to discuss the case.  Facts should support not only the case in general, but each aspect of the case.  A good logical argument should guide you in deciding which facts to present at each stage of your brief.


Using available expertise
You may need to use experts to present facts.  If so, you should make sure that the expert’s expertise does not detract from his presentation.  Panelists are normally not experts in the facts of the cases they hear and may need to be assisted to understand the details of what is being presented.  Arguments in panel proceedings based on a showing of assessment of damage, economic injury or harm may in particular have to be both prepared and presented by experts, unless government personnel are able to present a convincing and factual story involving considerable mathematical dexterity.  The tests for determining injury varies among the different WTO Agreements, so you should take care to find experts who know the subject area and the agreement, as well as the economic theory and the math.  

The WTO, since it is a government-to-government institution, is understandably reluctant to acknowledge a role for the private sector in the DSM.  However, it is often important and sometimes necessary to be able to supplement the contributions of government-employed specialists with those of private-sector experts.  Experts are mostly used to draft legal analyses and to present facts.  In most cases, non-government personnel can be used in almost any capacity except to present an oral argument before a panel.  However, the Appellant Body has ruled that a government does have the right to be represented in a proceeding by a private lawyer if it wants to designate such a person to represent it.  

Panels are allowed to choose whether to access non-requested information submitted to them by private sector and NGO groups, and any other information they may find relevant.  You will have to judge whether in your particular case it will be useful to present to Panels a wide variety of information they can view at their discretion, but you should always focus most on those facts that support the argument.  Panels in practice may be more ready to consider non-governmental, non-requested information if a party submits it rather than a non-governmental entity.  


WTO Dispute Settlement Jurisprudence  
The basic principles of public commercial law are incorporated in the Final Act of the Uruguay Round and the Marrakesh Agreements establishing the World Trade Organization.  These are based on the principles established in GATT 1947.  Since the GATT also incorporated a dispute settlement mechanism, there is significant jurisprudence, numerous decisions by GATT panels and working parties interpreting the principles embodied by the agreement.  Given the large number of WTO panel and Appellate Body decisions approved every year since the founding of the WTO, the body of interpretative material is growing rapidly.  

Panels and the Appellate Body also often cite principles of public international law.  In this regard, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties is frequently referred to as a guide in interpreting the WTO agreements.  

Although much has been written about whether the GATT, and the succeeding WTO dispute settlement mechanism, operates on a common law or a civil law model, it is probably fair to say that it operates as an amalgam of the two; that is, although each dispute settlement panel has reference to decisions of other panels in which similar arguments and facts have been presented, it is authorized to interpret the facts and arguments before it on its own authority as well as in light of prior, or similar cases.  Thus, while there is no formal agreement that the principle of stare decisis (the binding nature of previous rulings on subsequent panels) applies in panels decisions, panelists usually seek to support their reasoning by citing decisions of prior panels and the Appellate Body on the same principles. This has given rise to a series of cases in which panels and the Appellate Body have generally agreed that broad principles set forth in the WTO Agreements and GATT 1947 operate in specific ways.  For some of the principles, there is also general agreement on the analytical approach that should be taken in determining whether a specific measure is inconsistent with the principle.  Nevertheless, panels are not formally bound by prior decisions or interpretations.  

For example, there is virtual agreement that certain principles of interpretation should be adhered to.  The Appellate Body in a series of cases has set forth the steps to be followed in analyzing whether a measure is covered by one of the general exceptions in Article XX of the GATT.  The cases also spell out the order in which the steps are to be taken. As the various WTO agreements may have slightly different rationales and procedures, it is necessary to thoroughly understand the procedural rules of relevant agreements before you begin.  

The foregoing situation means that the principles of WTO law are evolving ones.  Furthermore, as the WTO operates by consensus, Members can also agree upon new WTO principles.  With successive rounds of trade negotiations and the WTO’s growth as an institution, it is likely that the principles developed under GATT 1947, now supplemented and clarified by the Uruguay Round Agreements, will be even more fully elaborated and new areas added as new negotiations take place.  At the 2001 Doha WTO Ministerial meeting, WTO members agreed to consider developing principles and disciplines in several new areas.  Most likely the new principles will be augmentative, but the basic principles will remain.

Guide to Internet Resources  

Panel and Appellate Body reports are retrievable and downloadable from the WTO website database (see WTO website:  The WTO sells a CD-Rom entitled “Guide to GATT Law and Practice: Analytical Index” which contains analyses of decisions, panel reports and other document between 1945 and 1994 interpreting the GATT.).  This “Analytical Index” is also available from many public libraries as reference material. No such document yet exists for the WTO, but a body of legal analysis has also grown up around WTO dispute settlement proceedings.  Much of this is also accessible electronically and the appendix includes some suggested websites.  The website of at contains a very useful searchable databank of all WTO panel and Appellate Body reports and WTO agreements as well as GATT panel reports.   

There is a large body of legal commentary on WTO dispute settlement issues such as “forum shopping” and trade sanctions.  Three websites offering access to some of this commentary are:, offering general research on the WTO and related trade issues,, offering articles and materials related to trade and environment and, offering general research materials on related to international trade  The International Centre on Trade and Sustainable Development, at, also tracks developments on dispute settlement and other WTO issues.   Discussions are also ongoing in the WTO about the relationship between its’ Agreements and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).  

Additional WTO materials

Dispute Settlement Understanding

Rules of Conduct for the Settlement of Disputes

Working Procedure for Appellate Review

Flow Chart of Panel process