Dispute Settlement in The World Trade Organization - From Complaint To Final Report

From Complaint To Final Report

If a member state considers that a measure adopted by another member state has deprived it of a benefit accruing to it under one of the covered agreements, it may call for consultations with the other member state. If consultations fail to resolve the dispute within 60 days after receipt of the request for consultations, the complainant state may request the establishment of a Panel. It is not possible for the respondent state to prevent or delay the establishment of a Panel, unless the DSB by consensus decides otherwise. The panel, normally consisting of three members appointed ad hoc by the Secretariat, sits to receive written and oral submissions of the parties, on the basis of which it is expected to make findings and conclusions for presentation to the DSB. The proceedings are confidential, and even when private parties are directly concerned, they are not permitted to attend or make submissions separate from those of the state in question. Disputes can also arise under Non-violation nullification of benefits claims.

The final version of the panel's report is distributed first to the parties; two weeks later it is circulated to all the members of the WTO. In sharp contrast with other systems, the report is required to be adopted at a meeting of the DSB within 60 days of its circulation, unless the DSB by consensus decides not to adopt the report or a party to the dispute gives notice of its intention to appeal. A party may appeal a panel report to the standing Appellate Body, but only on issues of law and legal interpretations developed by the panel. Each appeal is heard by three members of the permanent seven-member Appellate Body set up by the Dispute Settlement Body and broadly representing the range of WTO membership. Members of the Appellate Body have four-year terms. They must be individuals with recognized standing in the field of law and international trade, not affiliated with any government. The Appellate Body may uphold, modify or reverse the panel's legal findings and conclusions. Normally appeals should not last more than 60 days, with an absolute maximum of 90 days. The possibility for appeal makes the WTO dispute resolution system unique among the judicial processes of dispute settlement in general public international law.

Members may express their views on the report of the Appellate Body, but they cannot derail it. The DSU states unequivocally that an Appellate Body report shall be adopted by the DSB and unconditionally accepted by the parties, unless the DSB decides by consensus within thirty days of its circulation not to adopt the report. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties to the dispute, the period from establishment of the panel to consideration of the report by the DSB shall as a general rule not exceed nine months if there is no appeal, and twelve months if there is an appeal.

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