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Developing countries, dispute settlement, and the Advisory Centre on WTO Law


  • Chad Bown
  • Rachel McCulloch


Critical appraisals of the current and potential benefits from developing country engagement in the WTO focus mainly on the Doha Round of negotiations. This paper examines a different aspect of developing country participation in the WTO: use of the WTO dispute settlement system to enforce foreign market access rights already negotiated in earlier rounds of multilateral negotiations. We examine data on developing country use from 1995 through 2008 of the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) to enforce foreign market access. The data reveal three notable trends: developing countries' sustained rate of self-enforcement actions despite declining use of the DSU by developed countries, developing countries' increased use of the DSU to self-enforce their access to the markets of developing as well as developed countries, and the prevalence of disputes targeting highly observable causes of lost foreign market access, such as antidumping, countervailing duties, and safeguards. The paper also examines how introduction of the Advisory Centre on WTO Law (ACWL) into the WTO system in 2001 has affected developing countries' use of the DSU to self-enforce their foreign market access rights. A first pass at the data indicates that developing country use of the ACWL mirrors their use of the DSU more broadly; the ACWL has had little effect in terms of introducing new countries to DSU self-enforcement. A closer look at the data reveals evidence on at least three channels through which the ACWL may be enhancing developing countries' ability to self-enforce foreign market access: increased initiation of sole-complainant cases, more extensive pursuit of the DSU legal process for any given case, and initiation of disputes over smaller values of lost trade.

Suggested Citation

  • Chad Bown & Rachel McCulloch, 2010. "Developing countries, dispute settlement, and the Advisory Centre on WTO Law," The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(1), pages 33-63.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jitecd:v:19:y:2010:i:1:p:33-63
    DOI: 10.1080/09638190903327468

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    Cited by:

    1. Chad Bown & Kara Reynolds, 2015. "Trade flows and trade disputes," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 145-177, June.
    2. Shiro Armstrong, 2014. "Economic Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and the Global Trading System," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(3), pages 513-521, September.
    3. Rachel McCulloch, 2010. "The International Trading System and Its Future," Working Papers 08, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.
    4. Chad P. Bown, 2014. "Trade Policy Flexibilities and Turkey: Tariffs, Anti-dumping, Safeguards and WTO Dispute Settlement," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(2), pages 193-218, February.
    5. Johannesson, Louise, 2016. "Supporting Developing Countries in WTO Dispute Settlement," Working Paper Series 1120, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    6. Kara M. Reynolds & Chad P. Bown, 2014. "Trade Flows and Trade Disputes," Working Papers 2014-05, American University, Department of Economics.

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    WTO; dispute settlement; developing countries; ACWL;


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