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Public Access to Dispute Settlement Hearings in the World Trade Organization


  • Lothar Ehring


In 2005, the first dispute settlement panels of the World Trade Organization (WTO) decided that the public could observe their oral hearings. Following three years of panel practice with open hearings where both parties requested public access, the Appellate Body in 2008 followed suit and held its first open hearings. Most people had believed this to be impossible without modification of the WTO Agreement, and WTO Members were far apart regarding the desirability and legality of open hearings. This controversy persists, but it has changed considerably, based on the entirely successful experience of open hearings to date, which has already prompted several WTO Members to change their position. The new practice is a historic and irreversible shift from sixty years of Practice under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and in the WTO. It is also remarkable given the importance of allowing public observation of judicial hearings, as it exists across the world both domestically and internationally. More than a quarter of WTO disputes currently have public hearings, and the future practice is likely to consolidate the trend. No political fallout has occurred so far, as it did on amicus curiae in 2000. This is also unlikely to happen in the future, which will tell whether WTO Members can find agreement on codifying rules on transparency. Already now, justice is not only done at the WTO, but it can also be seen to be done. , Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Lothar Ehring, 2008. "Public Access to Dispute Settlement Hearings in the World Trade Organization," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(4), pages 1021-1034, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jieclw:v:11:y:2008:i:4:p:1021-1034

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    Cited by:

    1. Conconi, Paola & Voon, Tania, 2016. "EC–Seal Products: The Tension between Public Morals and International Trade Agreements," World Trade Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(02), pages 211-234, April.
    2. Manfred Elsig, 2010. "The World Trade Organization at work: Performance in a member-driven milieu," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 345-363, September.

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