International Trade Law at PluriCourts

PluriCourts studies the various forms of dispute settlement under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Established in 1995, the WTO provides a forum for negotiating agreements aimed at reducing obstacles to international trade, with the goal of securing a smooth cross-border flow of goods, services and intellectual property, and ensuring a level playing field for all, thus contributing to economic growth and development. The WTO also provides a legal and institutional framework for the implementation and monitoring of these agreements, as well as for settling disputes between its Members arising from their interpretation and application.

The WTO currently has 164 members, of which 117 are developing countries or separate customs territories. Recently questions have been raised regarding the relevance of the WTO, as its Members have moved towards sealing their own free-trade deals on a country-to-country or region-to-region basis. These deals move beyond the traditional scope of products, investments and intellectual property so as to include rules on competition, labour and the environment.

Regional and bilateral trade agreements have risen in number and reach over the years, including a notable increase in large plurilateral agreements under negotiation. Following the notification of the regional trade agreement (RTA) between Mongolia and Japan in June 2016, all WTO members now have an RTA in force. Most, if not all, RTAs contain provisions that establish procedures for resolving disputes among their signatory members. Yet, the design and functioning of these dispute settlement mechanisms (DSMs) and, more specifically, how they differ from the WTO dispute settlement system remain relatively unexplored. 

The organizational, procedural and substantive aspects of all mechanisms for the settlement of trade disputes merit scrutiny, especially the involvement of third countries through formal intervention and the use of amicus curiae briefs by stakeholders. The international, regional and bilateral trade systems’ impact on other areas of law, such as environmental law and human rights law is of interest. Likewise, the relationship between these systems and domestic dispute settlement has to be scrutinised, e.g. due to popular charges of “illegitimate” decisions such as prohibitions of trade measures for health reasons or subsidies, and protection of patents in medicine.

Published Sep. 11, 2013 12:50 PM - Last modified Dec. 1, 2017 2:23 PM