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

Condon, Bradly J., Lost in Translation: Plurilingual Interpretion of WTO Law (November 6, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1501314 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1501314

Bradly J. Condon (Contact Author)

ITAM - School of Law ( email )

Rio Hondo No. 1
Col. Tizapan-San Angel, 01000
52 55 56 28 40 00 x3789 (Phone)
52 55 56 28 40 49 (Fax)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics