Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Law

The WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism as a New Technique for Settling Disputes in International Law

November 2008 - July 2009

The dispute settlement mechanism (DSM) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is a novelty in international law in so many respects.

Although it is an improvement on the old GATT dispute settlement mechanism, it is quite different in nature from other international mechanisms available for resolving international disputes between States. Unlike other mechanisms, its rules and procedures, especially the provisions relating to the appellate body, follow the principles of common law rather than civil law.

This mechanism is a blend of diplomacy, negotiation, mediation, arbitration and adjudication. It is neither fully judicial nor completely a non-judicial mechanism.

However, this is not a perfect mechanism by any means. It is not free of constraints, deficiencies and some inherent weaknesses. Critics argue that the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) is not as effective as it appears to be on the surface especially when it comes to enforcing the rulings of the DSB against major powers.

They also argue that it does not provide effective remedy for those non-State business actors which suffer from injustices and distortions in international trade.

It is in this context that this research project aims to examine the framework of the dispute settlement system within the WTO and explore its weaknesses and ways to overcome them.

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