Arbitration — the stop-gap when WTO appeals are unavailable

A group of WTO members have agreed on an alternative way to get a second legal opinion

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED AUGUST 4, 2020 | UPDATED DECEMBER 21, 2022

On August 3, 2020, a group of 50 World Trade Organization members — 30% of the membership — announced that an alternative arrangement was up and running, as a means of getting round a blockage preventing formal appeals in WTO dispute settlement.

Developed gradually since early 2019, the system would retain countries’ ability to get a second opinion after a first-stage “panel” ruling, through arbitration instead of going through the non-functioning Appellate Body.

But unlike a standard appeal, the outcome of the arbitration would not be formally adopted by the WTO’s membership, and therefore would not be part of official WTO law at least not with the same weight as a full appeal.

On October 6, 2022, the first case was appealed. Less than three months later on December 21, it produced the first arbitration appeal ruling.

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