Supplying Compliance: Why and When the United States Complies with WTO Rulings

47 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2013 Last revised: 8 Jan 2015

See all articles by Rachel Brewster

Rachel Brewster

Duke University School of Law

Adam Chilton

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: January 7, 2015


In studies of compliance with international law, the focus is usually on the "demand side" – that is, how to increase the pressure on the state to comply. Less attention has been paid, however, to the consequences of the "supply side" – who within the state is responsible for the compliance. This Article is the first study to systematically address the issue of how different actors within the United States government alter national policy in response to the violations of international law. The Article does so by examining cases initiated under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU). This Article presents empirical evidence that who within the government must supply compliance is the most important factor in explaining both whether and when the United States government complies with WTO rulings, even after controlling for important characteristics of the state filing the request and the political importance of the affected industry. These results demonstrate that understanding the domestic supply of compliance is a critical, if neglected, aspect of international law theory. The results also highlight how the dominant "unitary actor" model (adopted by international law scholars to explain compliance) obscures important causal pathways in the compliance process. This Article opens up a new and rich field of study into what makes international law effective or ineffective.

Keywords: WTO, international trade, compliance, dispute resolution, DSU, domestic politics

Suggested Citation

Brewster, Rachel and Chilton, Adam, Supplying Compliance: Why and When the United States Complies with WTO Rulings (January 7, 2015). Yale Journal of International Law, vol. 39, no. 2, 2014 , Available at SSRN: or

Rachel Brewster (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Adam Chilton

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States


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