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International Trade Law : Research Guide

Introduction

Dispute resolution under GATT 1947 was governed by Articles XXII and XXIII, which set up a system of consultation for the settlement of disputes between member nations. The dispute settlement system under GATT evolved over time and there were additional documents and legal instruments created to incorporate the changes. Examples of these include the 1966 Decision on Procedures under Article XXIII, which approved procedural changes to help developing countries proceed in the dispute settlement process, and the 1979 Understanding Regarding Nullification, Consultation and Dispute Settlement, which codified many of the customary dispute settlement practices that had been developed over the years. Part of the customary practice was to have the case heard by a panel of experts when consultations did not resolve the matter.

Even with the changes in the GATT procedure, the dispute settlement process was not considered satisfactory. Therefore, one of the mandates at the Uruguay Round was to strengthen and improve the rules and procedures for dispute settlement. The intent was to make the rules more concrete, so that it would be possible to have a more consistent application.

The basis for the WTO dispute settlement process is the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes [generally referred to as the DSU], which appears as Annex 2 of the WTO Agreement. Under the DSU, member countries can engage in consultations to settle disputes arising out of any of the WTO agreements or they can have a WTO panel hear the case. Under the DSU, panel decisions can be appealed to the Appellate Body. Additionally, unlike under GATT, WTO final decisions must be adopted unless there is a unanimous vote of all members not to do so.

Introductory Resources

To see more background and reference works available at Diamond Law Library, including older editions, please try these searches on Pegasus: 

You can find a selected list of publications below.

Legal Texts

Dispute Resolution Decisions

It is important to note that panel decisions can be very long and that not all printed versions of them contain the full text of the decision. Print volumes may contain summaries or excerpts of the decisions. The decisions in print may omit addendums and annexes that have been included by the WTO panel for the sake of completeness.

A good place to find the full text of the decisions is the WTO website. Another reason to use the site is that the WTO considers it an official source of documentation. However, this site is not the most straightforward, so that having the name of the case is helpful. Within the WTO page, it is important to go directly to the panel decision page, rather than the official documents page because the panel decision page provides easier access to the decisions. It is also possible to access the GATT panel decisions through this site.

As noted above, panel decisions can also be found on Lexis, Westlaw and WorldTradeLaw.net. These resources generally have better search capabilities than the WTO site. Therefore, it is advisable to use them when one is looking for more than just a specific case.