WTO Dispute Settlement Review to Continue into 1999

14 December 1998

The WTO General Council last week agreed to the request submitted to it by the Dispute Settlement Body, to prolong the review of the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) until mid-1999. According to the provisions of the DSU, the review should have been concluded by the end of this year, but the number of suggestions for changes to the DSU have been larger than expected, particularly in the light of the fact that the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) is considered to be working very well on the whole.

Amongst the main issues being discussed in the context of the DSU review are set out below. For more details and country positions, see BRIDGES Between Trade and Sustainable Development, Vol 2, No. 4, p. 7, No. 7, p.7 & No. 8, p. 9). Transparency of the DSM is one of the points of discussion which has been the most aired, and on which country positions diverge the most. Elements of the issue of transparency include early release of panel reports and public access to country submissions, non-state actors' right to submit amicus briefs to panels, and open panel hearings to the public.

Developing countries argue that the DSU's special and differential treatment provisions in favour of developing countries have not yet given the benefits hoped for. Some are advocating creation of an independent unit to provide legal assistance to developing countries involved in DS proceedings. Other issues put forward are the composition of panels, compliance and implementation procedures, and rules relating to multiple complaints.

ICTSD Internal Files.

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