Decision Making In WTO: Different Methods Of Dispute Settlement, Comparative Analysis

Noopur Biswas, Symbiosis Law School


The Dispute Settlement Body is the heart of World Trade Organisation. Any dispute in between the members of WTO is resolved by consultation between the countries. If both or any one of the parties is not satisfied with the consultation result then, they can request the Dispute Settlement Body to set a panel. On further disagreement with the reports from the panel, they can approach the Dispute Settlement Appellate Body which consists of 7 members appointed with the consensus of the Dispute Settlement Body.

There are three different levels at which a dispute can be resolved in WTO. The last resort of settlement is the Appellate Body which now can’t function anymore because of absence of required number members needed for hearing any dispute.

Recently, WTO has been going through “Dispute Appellate Body Crisis”. Once, known as “the crown jewel of WTO”, today is falling apart. There is no member presiding in the Appellate body, following the expiration of term of all previous members. Since 2017, USA has been objecting the appointment of new members due, to which a required consensus has not been yet reached by all the member countries for new appointments.

The Appellate Body in the WTO has been criticised in recent years for exceeding the time limit of 90 days for ruling and departing from its agreed role. The question that lies here is “what led to the fall of once Crown Jewel of WTO to fall apart in such manner”. Each of the three methods are equally important for ensuring free trade in the world.

Moreover, in the time as crucial as pandemic, the paralysis of such important part of this institution has caused more damage to the world trade ecosystem.

This research paper does a comparative study of the different modes by which the disputes are resolved in the WTO. Many published papers and data from the WTO have been studied throughout the paper to give a deeper understanding of dispute settlement understanding to the readers. The research methodology used is Secondary Data Analysis.

The reform in the Dispute Settlement body has been in debate for a much longer time. Many review processes and negotiations has been held and yet the organisation has to go through such crisis.

There is a dire need to either appoint the members of the Appellate Body or an adequate alternative for the same. There are a number of disputes occurring in between the members and the non-functioning of the highest body is not going to do any justice. Many members are making No-appeal Agreements which means there will be no further appeal after the reports of panel. The unavailability any higher body will lead to disbelief in between the members in the long run.

This research paper discusses the reasons which has led to the dissenting members causing fall of an important part of the structure of the institution. The main reason here is the conflict between the diplomatic and legal model dispute settlement. Any reform in the organisation will need these two models to work together in order to make the organisation more effective and make the trade ecosystem favourable for both developed and developing nations.

KEYWORDS: Free Trade, Dispute Settlement, Appellate Body, New Members, Reforming

Indian Journal of Law and Legal Research

Abbreviation: IJLLR

ISSN: 2582-8878


Accessibility: Open Access

License: Creative Commons 4.0

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​All research articles published in The Indian Journal of Law and Legal Research are fully open access. i.e. immediately freely available to read, download and share. Articles are published under the terms of a Creative Commons license which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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