Who Holds Influence over WTO Jurisprudence?
27 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2017
Date Written: March 2017
What shapes jurisprudence in international law? States dedicate considerable effort trying to influence not only the outcome, but also the content, of legal rulings. The stakes are high, as these legal opinions can redefine the meaning of the rules. Looking at the World Trade Organization, we ask whether some countries hold more influence over jurisprudence than others, and what such influence depends on. Using text analyses of every country submission in every ruling in the WTO era, we test a number of theoretical expectations. We find that some countries do appear to hold greater sway over the content of rulings than others: a country’s wealth, but especially its legal experience, account for much of this variation. Secondly, countries’ influence over the content of the verdict varies according to how novel the legal issue being ruled on is: states have more influence over the content of the ruling, the less precedent judges have to rely on in terms of prior legal decisions. The salience of the case and judges’ legal experience also follow expectations, as both are shown to take away from countries’ influence. Overall, the degree to which countries’ submissions influence the content of rulings appears to vary systematically. Legal capacity affects not only countries’ ability to file disputes, but also their ability to affect the shape of the resulting jurisprudence.
Keywords: WTO, Jurisprudence, Text Analysis, International Law, Precedent, Trade
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation