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Advanced Introduction to International Trade Law

Michael J. Trebilcock Joel Trachtman

Written by two leading scholars with 60 years of collective experience in the area, this insightful updated second edition provides a clear and concise introduction to the fundamental components of international trade law, presenting the basic structure and principles of this complex area of law, alongside elucidation of specific GATT and WTO legal rules and institutions. Key updates include references to the most recent cases, decisions and treaty negotiation developments, analysis of populist critiques of international trade law and analysis of new areas including digital trade and security exceptions.
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Institutional structure of the WTO: treaty-making, decision-making, and dispute settlement

Michael J. Trebilcock Joel Trachtman

Extract

In initial negotiations after World War II for the creation of a multilateral trading system, negotiating countries failed to adopt the Havana Charter, which would have led to the creation of a comprehensive International Trade Organization (ITO), as a partner to the World Bank and IMF. The ITO never came into existence but the GATT, as a provisional agreement intended to preserve the tariff reduction commitments of the parties until the establishment of the ITO, by default became a permanent framework for the multilateral trading system. It established an anaemic institutional structure that member countries elaborated over time.

The WTO, established in 1995 to serve as an umbrella organization that includes the GATT, serves as a forum for negotiation and treaty revision over time, as a locus for quasi-legislative decision-making, and as a forum for dispute settlement regarding the WTO agreements. Treaty revision generally requires unanimity, although it is possible to make plurilateral agreements within the WTO system, and it is theoretically possible that amendments to the WTO treaty could be implemented without unanimity. Decision-making also is formally permitted without unanimity, but as a matter of practice it requires consensus, meaning that no member objects. Dispute settlement was revised significantly at the establishment of the WTO to provide that adjudicative decisions would attain legal effect unless a consensus is established to deny legal effect – the reverse of the previous rule.

The governance structure of the WTO system comprises the Ministerial Conference, which meets every two years,...

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