Lost in Translation: A Comparative Analysis of Plurilingual Interpretion in WTO Panel and Appellate Body Reports
30 Pages Posted: 16 May 2010 Last revised: 15 Jul 2010
Date Written: May 13, 2010
This article analyzes the extent to which the Appellate Body and WTO panels compare the authentic texts in their examination of the WTO Agreements and the extent to which the parties themselves do so in their 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.
Presented at the SIEL 2010 Conference in Barcelona.
Keywords: WTO, plurilingual treaty interpretation, Vienna Convention, Article 33, Appellate Body, panels, authentic texts
JEL Classification: F02, F10, F13, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation