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On the Role and Design of Dispute Settlement Procedures in International Trade Agreements

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  • Giovanni Maggi
  • Robert W. Staiger

Abstract

Formal economic analysis of trade agreements typically treats disputes as synonymous with concerns about enforcement. But in reality, most WTO disputes involve disagreements of interpretation concerning the agreement, or instances where the agreement is simply silent. And some have suggested that the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) might serve a useful purpose by granting "exceptions" to rigid contractual obligations in some circumstances. In each of these three cases, the role played by the DSB amounts to "completing" various dimensions of an incomplete contract. Moreover, there is a debate among legal scholars on whether or not precedent-setting in DSB rulings may enhance the performance of the institution. All of this points to the importance of understanding the implications of the different possible degrees of activism in the role played by the DSB. In this paper we bring formal analysis to bear on this broad question. We characterize the choice of contractual form and DSB role that is optimal for governments under various contracting conditions. A novel feature of our approach is that it highlights the interaction between the design of the contract and the design of the dispute settlement procedure, and it views these as two components of a single over-arching institutional design problem.

Suggested Citation

  • Giovanni Maggi & Robert W. Staiger, 2008. "On the Role and Design of Dispute Settlement Procedures in International Trade Agreements," NBER Working Papers 14067, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14067
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    7. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Giovanni Maggi, 2002. "Rigidity, Discretion, and the Costs of Writing Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 798-817, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Horn, Henrik, 2009. "The Burden of Proof in National Treatment Disputes and the Environment," Working Paper Series 791, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    2. Giovanni Maggi & Robert W. Staiger, 2009. "Breach, Remedies and Dispute Settlement in Trade Agreements," NBER Working Papers 15460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Ceva, Emanuela & Fracasso, Andrea, 2010. "Seeking mutual understanding: a discourse-theoretical analysis of the WTO Dispute Settlement System," World Trade Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(03), pages 457-485, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • K12 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Contract Law
    • K33 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - International Law

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