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Mapping of dispute settlement mechanisms in regional trade agreements: Innovative or variations on a theme?


  • Chase, Claude
  • Yanovich, Alan
  • Crawford, Jo-Ann
  • Ugaz, Pamela


Regional trade agreements (RTAs) have become an indelible feature of the international trading landscape. Most, if not all, RTAs contain provisions that establish procedures for resolving disputes among their signatory members. Yet, the design and functioning of these dispute settlement mechanisms (DSMs) and, more specifically, how they differ from the WTO dispute settlement system remain relatively unexplored. Existing academic literature has primarily focused on the narrow issue of jurisdictional conflict between DSMs of RTAs and the WTO dispute settlement system. Literature mapping out and classifying systematically the DSMs of RTAs is more limited. This research paper goes beyond considering the issue of jurisdictional conflict between the multilateral and regional regimes. We map out the DSMs in RTAs that have been notified to the WTO and were in force at the end of 2012, and consider a typology of these DSMs based on their nature and design. We also use the data obtained from our mapping exercise in two ways. First, we identify trends and patterns of use, either regionally or by individual countries, of the different types of DSMs in RTAs. Trends are analysed in relation to five key factors: (i) evolution over time, (ii) level of economic development, (iii) regional characteristics, (iv) level of integration (partial scope agreement, free trade agreement or customs union), and (v) configuration (bilateral or plurilateral). Second, we undertake a nuts and bolts analysis of the DSMs of RTAs by examining their approach to various issues in international dispute settlement. Our aim is to draw conclusions about the extent to which the predominant type of DSM in RTAs has features that are different from those of the WTO dispute settlement system.

Suggested Citation

  • Chase, Claude & Yanovich, Alan & Crawford, Jo-Ann & Ugaz, Pamela, 2013. "Mapping of dispute settlement mechanisms in regional trade agreements: Innovative or variations on a theme?," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2013-07, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wtowps:ersd201307

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    Cited by:

    1. Petros C. Mavroidis, 2016. "Dispute Settlement in the WTO. Mind over Matter," RSCAS Working Papers 2016/04, European University Institute.
    2. Kyle Bagwell & Chad P. Bown & Robert W. Staiger, 2016. "Is the WTO Passé?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(4), pages 1125-1231, December.
    3. Conconi, Paola & DeRemer, David R. & Kirchsteiger, Georg & Trimarchi, Lorenzo & Zanardi, Maurizio, 2017. "Suspiciously timed trade disputes," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 57-76.
    4. Kuenzel, David J., 2017. "WTO dispute determinants," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 157-179.
    5. William Phelan, 2015. "Enforcement and Escape in the Andean Community: Why the Andean Community of Nations is Not a Replica of the European Union," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(4), pages 840-856, July.
    6. Todd Allee & Manfred Elsig, 2016. "Why do some international institutions contain strong dispute settlement provisions? New evidence from preferential trade agreements," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 89-120, March.
    7. Monteiro, José-Antonio, 2016. "Typology of environment-related provisions in regional trade agreements," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2016-13, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
    8. Thow, Anne Marie & Snowdon, Wendy & Labonté, Ronald & Gleeson, Deborah & Stuckler, David & Hattersley, Libby & Schram, Ashley & Kay, Adrian & Friel, Sharon, 2015. "Will the next generation of preferential trade and investment agreements undermine prevention of noncommunicable diseases? A prospective policy analysis of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 119(1), pages 88-96.
    9. repec:bla:glopol:v:8:y:2017:i:1:p:107-112 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Dispute Settlement; Regional Trade Agreements; RTAs; Dispute Settlement Mechanisms; WTO Dispute Settlement;

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • F53 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Agreements and Observance; International Organizations
    • K33 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - International Law


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