The Effectiveness of the WTO Dispute Settlement System: A Statistical Analysis

47 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2017 Last revised: 8 Jan 2018

See all articles by Arie Reich

Arie Reich

Bar-Ilan University - Faculty of Law

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Date Written: June 26, 2017


The dispute settlement system (DSS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is considered as the “Jewel in the Crown” of the WTO, is also the busiest of its kind. While this no doubt reflects its success, the system is far from perfect, and has drawn criticism both from within and without the ranks of its users. This paper presents a statistical analysis of over twenty years of WTO DSS, with a particular emphasis on questions of effectiveness.

Questions examined include: 1. Who are the member states using the WTO DSS? Is it used equally by developed, developing and least developed countries? Are poor countries more likely than rich ones to settle cases? Is there a correlation between the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or GDP per capita of WTO members and the extent to which they use the system? 2. What is the extent of compliance with binding recommendations of the DSB by member states? Are compliance disputes bona fide disputes about the meaning of a DSB ruling, or are they part of delaying tactics? Who are the members that do comply and who are the ones that do not? 3. How long do DSS procedures take on the average, from consultations request to adoption of recommendations? Has this time changed over time, from when the system began until today? 4. Finally, the paper will address the problem of the Appellate Body’s inability to remand the case to the original panel for reconsideration and determination of relevant facts. It will examine how often this lack of authority frustrates the system’s ability to conclude the DSS procedures with a clear ruling on all the disputed issues.

Keywords: World Trade Organization, Dispute Settlement, International Trade

JEL Classification: F02

Suggested Citation

Reich, Arie, The Effectiveness of the WTO Dispute Settlement System: A Statistical Analysis (June 26, 2017). EUI Department of Law Research Paper 2017/11, Available at SSRN: or

Arie Reich (Contact Author)

Bar-Ilan University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Faculty of Law
Ramat Gan, 52900
+972 3 5318416 (Phone)
+972 3 5351856 (Fax)

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