Lost in Translation: Plurilingual Interpretion of WTO Law
50 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2009
Date Written: November 6, 2009
This article analyzes the extent to which the Appellate Body compares the authentic texts in its examination of the WTO Agreements and the extent to which the parties themselves do so in their appellate arguments. The texts of the WTO Agreements are authentic in English, French and Spanish. Article 33 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties governs the interpretation of treaties authenticated in two or more languages. WTO practice diverges significantly from the rules set out in Article 33 and the travaux préparatoires of the International Law Commission. The terms of a plurilingual treaty are presumed to have the same meaning in each authentic text, which means that a treaty interpreter need not compare the authentic texts as a routine matter as a matter of law. Nevertheless, routine comparison of authentic texts would be good practice in the WTO context, since there are several discrepancies that could affect the interpretation of WTO provisions.
Keywords: WTO, Vienna Convention, multilingual treaty interpretation
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation