International Economic Law in Context

Mervyn Martin


We live in an ever globalising world. It is vital therefore for the international trading system to provide a platform that sufficiently supports the ability of all players to benefit from globalisation.   This platform is referred to as the multilateral trading system (MTS) which, through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) provides a series of agreements that regulate international trading activity. The current agreements were negotiated over a period spanning more than a decade, and therefore has to be appreciated within the context of which compromise and agreement were arrived upon. This is especially true as the previous platform, the GATT 1947 became obsolete, failing to accommodate developments within the international trading system. 

From the 1920s, discussions on international trade cooperation recognised two elements as crucial to providing a sustainable international trading system. Firstly was that tendencies of sweeping, unspecific statements on best principles led to meaningless outcomes with no hard and fast, enforceable commitments. The second was their episodic character, the absence of a framework to provide continuity in relations.  What was required then was a long-term framework for signatories to enjoy certainty and clarity through a rule-based system with clear predictable and enforceable rules supported by an effective and efficient dispute settlement mechanism (DSM).

The notion of a legal dispute within the jurisdiction of a DSM cannot involve conflicts of interests of the parties as such conflicts would have been resolved during negotiations prior to entering into binding agreements. The DSM cannot alter any rights or obligations arising from the agreements it covers. The WTO DSU promised such a DSM. 

The conveners of this theme welcome proposals addressing the success or failure of the WTO DSU in its objective to provide the kind of platform for regulating international trade. 

Proposals may include topics from the following non-exhaustive list. 

  • What are the theoretical assumptions of a DSM 
  • What are the benefits of a centralised DSM in the MTS 
  • How has the WTO DSU faired in its role as a DSM in the context of supporting an inclusive MTS 
  • Does the principle of “strategic ambiguity” have a place in the WTO DSU 

We hope to stimulate discussion and further collaboration on these and other questions among participants of the theme 

Abstracts may only be submitted via the Easy Chair Platform. They must be no longer than 300 words and should include your title, name and institutional affiliation and your email address for correspondence.