Rethinking WTO Trade Sanctions

44 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2001

See all articles by Steve Charnovitz

Steve Charnovitz

George Washington University - Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 1, 2001


The paper presents an outline of the issues and a preliminary appraisal of the use of trade sanctions by the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a means of promoting compliance by parties. The WTO is unique among intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) in using trade sanctions to enforce independent adjudications. Many commentators have suggested using trade sanctions analogously in other IGOs, or alternatively broadening trade rules so that the sanctions can be used for other purposes, such as enforcing basic human rights. The paper examines the advantages and disadvantages of the use of such compliance sanctions by the WTO and concludes that the WTO should abandon these trade-restrictive measures. Instead, the paper proposes that the WTO promote compliance in the same way that other IGOs do, through transnational public opinion and review mechanisms. The paper also proposes a new WTO optional protocol to help governments change their laws when needed to meet WTO obligations.

Keywords: Trade, WTO, world trade organization, dispute settlement, economic sanction, sanction, international law, international organization, human rights, non-governmental organization

JEL Classification: C7, F1, H0, K4, N4, N7

Suggested Citation

Charnovitz, Steve, Rethinking WTO Trade Sanctions (January 1, 2001). Available at SSRN: or

Steve Charnovitz (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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