Communication Flows in International Economic Law
The end of 2009 has seen the 400th dispute lodged in the WTO dispute settlement system. This has been described by Pascal Lamy as: ‘a vote of confidence in a system which many consider to be a role model for the peaceful resolution of disputes in other areas of international political or economic relations’. This is of course true at some level. However, a necessary premise of a vote of confidence is choice. The fact of the matter is that there is no choice of dispute settlement mechanisms other than resort to the WTO. Moreover, the number of disputes brought is as much an endorsement of the dispute settlement system as it is symptomatic of the problems in the substantive rules of the system. Every trade dispute brought in the dispute settlement system casts a shadow on the nature and quality of the negotiations that underpinned the WTO rules. Equally the endorsement by Pascal Lamy of the sentiment of the Members that the dispute settlement system does not need ‘any seismic shift in its fundamental structure’ does deserve some reflection given the numerous proposals for the reform of the WTO dispute system made by Members and outside observers.