Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The evolving jurisprudence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a fascinating phenomenon still in its early stages. That it exists is testament to a recognition by the WTO's Member States that a substantial ceding of national sovereignty to the WTO is necessary, or at least advisable, in order to support an international mechanism designed to facilitate and maintain orderly trade in goods and services across national boundaries. This partial relinquishment of jurisdiction, however, understandably has been accompanied by certain misgivings and hedging by Member States individually and particularly by the United States.

The boldness and tension underlying the political leap of faith involved here are evident in the structure and working of the WTO's dispute settlement system. Since its inception in 1947 the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) has provided for dispute settlement under Articles XXII and XXIII. Experience with this system over almost five decades, however, revealed a number of structural flaws that eroded its utility and effectiveness. To one degree or another, these shortcomings reflected an unwillingness by the GATT's Contracting Parties more fully to empower the GATT as an international organization.