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The Settlement of Trade Disputes

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Is There a Monopoly for the WTO?

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This article examines the question of whether the WTO enjoys a monopoly over the settlement of trade disputes by examining the historical context of the Dispute Settlement Understanding of the WTO, including early dispute resolution under the GATT and the goal behind the transformation leading to the WTO of curbing potential unilateralism within the trade regime. It argues that this culminated in the intention to create a centralized rule-based system for the settlement of disputes, rather than an intention to create a monopoly for the WTO. The article examines potential threats to the so-called monopoly, in particular with the proliferation of Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) and the development of Mutually Agreed Solutions (MAS). It also addresses relevant case law to demonstrate that the WTO does not and was not intended to enjoy a monopoly over trade disputes. Rather, the WTO pursues the objective of strengthening the multilateral trading system rather than encouraging unilateral trade action, which would not appear to be undermined by resort to the dispute settlement mechanisms of relevant RTAs or other dispute settlement mechanisms.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Law, University of GenevaSciences Po Paris (School of Law)


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