International Adjudication on Trial: The Effectiveness of the WTO Dispute Settlement System
International Adjudication on Trial:
The Effectiveness of the WTO Dispute Settlement System
by Sivan Shlomo Agon (Oxford University Press, 2019) 348 pages
Reviewed by David Collins
In this assiduously researched and provocative new book, Agon presents the compelling argument that the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Dispute Settlement System (DSS) should be evaluated on the basis of a wide range of vital, often under-appreciated goals, including the fostering of long-term amity between trading partners, deference to national sovereignty and the integrity of the WTO itself as an institution of global governance. These varied and flexible objectives shift from dispute to dispute depending on context, enabling the adjudicative branch of the WTO to satisfy a multitude of competing needs, such as the accommodation of social issues and the overlapping complexity of regional dispute settlement systems. Agon makes his point by delving into the background and legal reasoning of several landmark WTO cases, including US-Clove Cigarettes (noteworthy for its reading-in of general exception-style flexibility into the National Treatment obligation of the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement), EC-Bananas (for its capacity to bring some calm into a politically-fraught, historically sensitive Trans-Atlantic debate) and EC-Hormones (for its integration of profoundly differing philosophical approaches to food safety and by extension, the regulatory state in general). He stresses that while some might hold these examples out as difficult cases which have exposed the flaws in the DSS, notably its failure to secure strict compliance in every case, they actually embody the DSS’s admirable adaptability, underscoring its importance as a forum for preserving trade relationships among members and de-escalating political tensions, many of which have arisen as the consequence of the failure to settle conflicts on other forums.

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