The WTO Dispute Settlement System aimed to curb unilateralism by establishing a multilateral process operating under the aegis of the WTO as the exclusive forum for WTO adjudication. Intuitively, one would expect that those negatively affected by the curtailing of their power to unilaterally do justice for themselves, would agree to multilateral resolution of disputes if the established regime could guarantee enforcement of obligations in comparable terms (to unilateral enforcement). In this perspective, respect and guarantee of reciprocal commitments is the key ingredient. Reciprocal commitments entered should not be unilaterally undone through the commission of illegalities. There are good reasons to doubt whether the WTO regime as it now stands guarantees reciprocity following the commitment of illegalities. It is probably more accurate to argue that the WTO regime serves ‘diffuse’ as opposed to ‘specific’ reciprocity. Still, WTO Members continue to routinely submit their disputes to the WTO adjudicating fora, lending support to the argument that the regime after all, was meant to curb punishment, and not to punish.
Petros C. Mavroidis,
Dispute Settlement in the WTO (Mind Over Matter),
European University Institute, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Global Governance Programme Working Paper No. RSCAS 2015/34
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