The Extensive (But Fragile) Authority of the WTO Appellate Body
30 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2015
Date Written: March 26, 2015
The authority of an international court (IC) is not necessarily evolutionary and its development unidirectional. This article addresses the authority of the Appellate Body (AB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and shows how it rapidly and almost immediately became extensive, but has since exhibited signs of becoming more fragile. The article applies a typology of IC authority developed by Alter, Helfer and Madsen (2014) and explains the transformation from narrow authority (a dispute resolution venue under the GATT based on political negotiations) to extensive authority (a judicialized WTO dispute settlement system with a sophisticated case law) and presents empirical indicators of the rise of the AB’s authority. Such rapid development of extensive authority is arguably a unique case in international politics at the multilateral level. That authority nonetheless remains fragile, and shows signs that it could decline significantly for reasons we explain.
Keywords: WTO, Appellate Body, international court, court authority, dispute settlement
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