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WTO disputes

The WTO provides a mechanism for member countries to resolve disputes among them related to the implementation of WTO trade agreements.

The rules of this State-to-State dispute settlement mechanism are set out in the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding.

WTO dispute settlement

There are various stages of a dispute.

As a first step, WTO members will try to resolve their disputes through consultations and negotiations. If this is not possible, they can request a panel of experts to adjudicate the case.

The panel will decide on the matter and issue a report. The report can be appealed on questions of law before the WTO permanent adjudicating body, the Appellate Body.

If a WTO member does not comply with the decisions of the panel/Appellate Body, the other member can take measures to retaliate, for example by increasing customs duties on certain products.

The EU makes active use of this system to correct violations of trade rules  for the benefit of its companies, workers and citizens. It initiates litigation only when it is not possible to find solutions through other means.

Consult the list and description of WTO disputes brought by the EU against third countries (offensive) and by third countries against the EU (defensive).

WTO Reform

The EU is working to reform the WTO dispute settlement mechanism to ensure that it maintains its effectiveness. In particular,  the EU is actively engaged in addressing the Appellate Body crisis, and has together with other third countries made proposals to this end.