World Trade Organization

Rethinking WTO Dispute Settlement

The WTO dispute settlement system is currently in crisis. Its highest court, the Appellate Body (AB), has been non-functional since December 2019 because the United States has vetoed the appointment of new judges. The absence of the appeal stage also undermines dispute settlement at the WTO’s first instance, the panels, whose reports can be appealed into the void and are left in limbo. As a result, Members’ WTO commitments are left unenforceable.

Rethinking WTO Dispute Settlement

In May 2023, over forty experts on the World Trade Organization (WTO) gathered from all over the world at the University of Ottawa to discuss the current state and future reform of the WTO dispute settlement system. The Ottawa symposium sought to support the efforts of reform by identifying innovative approaches to revitalize the WTO dispute settlement system. The participants included academics, practitioners, diplomates as well as former trade negotiators, panellists, Appellate Body members and WTO officials. With their diverse disciplinary and professional backgrounds, they brought together unique perspectives on potential reform of the WTO dispute settlement system.

WTO Visual Posts

02-20-24 | Business Law, International, World Trade Organization (WTO)

Rethinking WTO Dispute Settlement: a Unique Group of Experts Reunited to Brainstorm the Future of the WTO 

In May 2023, a diverse group of over forty World Trade Organization (WTO) experts gathered at the University of Ottawa to address the challenges plaguing the WTO dispute settlement system. This symposium aimed to explore innovative solutions to revitalize the system and support reform efforts. Attended by a mix of academics, practitioners and former WTO officials, the event fostered discussions on reforming the adjudicatory system, enhancing the WTO’s deliberative functions, and incorporating alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

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02-27-24 | Business Law, International, World Trade Organization (WTO)

The Inception of the World Trade Organization and of its trade dispute settlement system

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization whose rules govern trade between nations. It was established on January 1, 1995, succeeding the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Professor Robert Howse of New York University examines the origins of the WTO, particularly its emergence from the prevailing belief in the benefits of economic neoliberalism as the optimal approach for global growth and development.

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02-29-24 | Business Law, International, World Trade Organization (WTO)

The WTO Dispute Resolution Process : Why is it Broken?

The dispute resolution system, which was once considered the “Crown Jewel” of the WTO, is no longer functioning. Professor Joanna Langille offers an insightful analysis into how and why this critical mechanism has ceased to function effectively. She delves into the reasons behind its paralysis.

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03-01-24 | Business Law, International, World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Dispute Resolution System : What can be done?

The experts gathered under the “Rethinking WTO Dispute Settlement” initiative at uOttawa have highlighted the critical need to adjust the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanisms in response to the evolutions of global trade. This visual post presents a summary of their contributions and offers reflections on future directions, encouraging a renewal of commitment and increased cooperation in the adjudication of international trade disputes. The experts outline a vision for a strengthened and flexible international commercial governance system, capable of navigating the complexities of global trade.

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In 2018 Canada together with 13 likeminded members of the World Trade Organization decided to create something called the “Ottawa group”. The idea of the “Ottawa group” was to first reinvigorate the negotiation function of the WTO, second to enhance its deliberation function and third, to improve its dispute settlement function. And here we are again in Ottawa, talking about how to rethink WTO dispute settlement but also to consider different ways in which we can improve the deliberative function of the WTO.

Wolfgang Alschner, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa


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