Friday, November 6, 2009
By the time the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) celebrates its 15th "birthday" in January, it will have handled more than 400 trade disputes. The DSU came into existence in January 1995, meaning that this January 2010 will mark its 15th "birthday." Recently, Canada requested consulations with the European Communities over the importation and marking of seal products, invoking the WTO's dispute settlement processes for the 400th time in its history. "This is surely a vote of confidence in the system which many consider a role model for the peaceful resolution of disputes in other areas of international political or economic relations," said WTO Director-General Lamy in a press release. Since the WTO DSB was created, it has received an average of 27 disputes per year, with a high of 50 in 1997 and a low of 11 in 2005. The two most frequent users of the system are the trading giants, the United States and the European Communities; however, developing countries have been complainants in 45% of the cases, demonstrating that they too are using the system. Of the 153 members of the WTO, 58 have been either complainants or respondents before the DSB. Slightly less than half of all the cases filed have gone to litigation, with the rest being resolved through bilateral negotiations before a dispute settlement panel was established.