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The Evolution and Utilization of the GATT/WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism


  • Pao-Li Chang

    (University of Michigan)


This paper attempts to study the usage of the GATT/WTO dispute settlement mechanism and to explain its patterns across different regimes and decades, using a unified theoretical model. This study first explores the role of the degree of legal controversy over a panel ruling in determining countries' incentives to block/appeal a panel report under the GATT/WTO regime. The model is able to explain the surge in blocking incidence during the 1980s over the preceding GATT years and the immense frequency at which the new appellate procedure under the WTO is invoked. Furthermore, a two-sided asymmetric information framework is used to study the effects of political power on countries' incentives to use, and interactions in using, the GATT/WTO dispute settlement mechanism. It is shown that the magnitude of the political cost relative to the potential benefit that the complainant stands to gain when using this mechanism determines the pattern of filing activity and the frequency of various procedural outcomes. This result, when confronted with the statistics on disputes in different decades of the GATT regime, provides us an indicator of how well the dispute procedure has worked during various decades, in terms of how much this procedure has been subject to potential power politics.

Suggested Citation

  • Pao-Li Chang, 2002. "The Evolution and Utilization of the GATT/WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism," Working Papers 475, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:mie:wpaper:475

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kara Leitner & Simon Lester, 2006. "WTO Dispute Settlement from 1995 to 2005 -- A Statistical Analysis," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 219-231, March.
    2. Barry Nalebuff, 1987. "Credible Pretrial Negotiation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(2), pages 198-210, Summer.
    3. Chad P . Bown, 2002. "The Economics of Trade Disputes, the GATT's Article XXIII, and the WTO's Dispute Settlement Understanding," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(3), pages 283-323, November.
    4. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye, 1988. "Suing Solely to Extract a Settlement Offer," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(2), pages 437-450, June.
    5. Daughety, Andrew F. & Reinganum, Jennifer F., 1994. "Settlement negotiations with two-sided asymmetric information: Model duality, information distribution, and efficiency," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 283-298, September.
    6. Lucian Arye Bebchuk, 1984. "Litigation and Settlement under Imperfect Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(3), pages 404-415, Autumn.
    7. Butler, Monika & Hauser, Heinz, 2000. "The WTO Dispute Settlement System: First Assessment from an Economic Perspective," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(2), pages 503-533, October.
    8. I.P.L. P'ng, 1983. "Strategic Behavior in Suit, Settlement, and Trial," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 539-550, Autumn.
    9. Cooter, Robert D & Rubinfeld, Daniel L, 1989. "Economic Analysis of Legal Disputes and Their Resolution," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 1067-1097, September.
    10. Urs Schweizer, 1989. "Litigation and Settlement under Two-Sided Incomplete Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(2), pages 163-177.
    11. Horn, Henrik & Mavroidis, Petros C & Nordström, Håkan, 1999. "Is The Use Of The WTO Dispute Settlement System Biased?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2340, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pao-Li Chang, 2004. "The Politics of WTO Enforcement Mechanisms," Econometric Society 2004 Australasian Meetings 117, Econometric Society.
    2. Fabien BESSON & Racem MEHDI, "undated". "Is WTO Dispute Settlement System Biased Against Developing Countries? An Empirical Analysis," EcoMod2004 330600022, EcoMod.

    More about this item


    GATT/WTO; dispute settlement;

    JEL classification:

    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • K33 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - International Law
    • K41 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Litigation Process
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law


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