The Rule of Lawyers and The Ethos Of Diplomats: Reflections on the Internal and External Legitimacy of WTO Dispute Settlement – Vol. 13 No. 1-4

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Author: J. H. H. Weiler*

Published: December 2003

Dispute Resolution and Litigation


No other area of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has received more attention than its Dispute Settlement procedures, arguably the most important systemic outcome of the Uruguay Round. This is not surprising from the perspective of the WTO itself. The Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) was, it is argued, part of a Marrakech “historical deal”—fundamental to the entire outcome of the Uruguay Round. Moreover, the provisions for multilateral dispute resolution are horizontal in nature, extending to all dimensions of the covered agreements. It is not surprising, too, from the perspective of the academic community of WTO watchers: it is becoming increasingly difficult (though some still make the claim) to be a true specialist in all areas of substantive law covered by the agreements. But everyone interested in the WTO is a supposed specialist on dispute settlement – and this includes the sprinkling of political scientists who have come to appreciate the profound importance of the WTO, the many economists and political economists who have appreciated it for years and the rapidly growing number of trade lawyers (many of whom have sniffed the color of money). The five-year official Review of the process, one of the many casualties of Seattle, brought all this attention into sharp focus.

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*Manley Hudson Professor and Jean Monnet Chair, Harvard University. My thanks to Sungjoon Cho for his research assistance as well as to participants in the Jean Monnet Workshop on Advanced Issues in the Law and Policy of the WTO, EU and NAFTA. This paper was previously published at 35 J. WORLD TRADE 191 (2001).