Deliberative Engagement within the World Trade Organization: A Functional Substitute for Authoritative Interpretations

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The transition from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) dispute settlement proceedings to the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) represented a notable instance of judicialization within international economic governance. Since it began ruling on trade conflicts in 1995, the DSM has enjoyed significantly greater independence from direct government control than its GATT predecessors. It has also exercised a greater degree of interpretive autonomy than initially intended by WTO member governments (Members). This development largely stems from deadlock among Members and norms of consensus decision-making, which have thwarted use of one of the primary means of legislative response within the WTO: authoritative interpretations. Authoritative interpretations theoretically provide the WTO’s political bodies—the membership as a whole—with an opportunity to respond to interpretations or practices of its adjudicative bodies that are perceived to be at odds with governments’ intention, will, or preferences. Yet the current ineffective nature of authoritative interpretations creates a predicament not only for the WTO’s political organs. It also deprives the DSM of constructive normative guidance from its primary constituents: its Members. This Article proposes a functional substitute for the mechanism of authoritative interpretations, namely increased input from Members (in the form of statements within meetings of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body) prior to adoption of the dispute settlement rulings. We argue that such an increase would better enable the DSM to consider the interpretive preferences of the WTO membership as a whole, thus enabling it to better fulfill its fiduciary duties and its responsibility of deliberative engagement with Members in particular. This Article specifies how the proposal would work in practice and addresses potential limitations and obstacles to its implementation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew York University Journal of International Law & Politics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)413-462
Number of pages50
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, Vol. 48, Issue 2 (Winter 2016), pp. 413-462 Creamer, Cosette D.; Godzimirska, Zuzanna 48 N.Y.U. J. Int'l L. & Pol. 413 (2015-2016)

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Law - deliberative engagement, WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism

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