Canada: A Key Player in WTO Dispute Settlement

Canada in International Law at 150 and Beyond Paper No. 11

February 27, 2018

On April 15, 1994, ministers representing 124 governments and the European Communities saluted the “historic achievement” represented by the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations, which they believed would “strengthen the world economy and lead to more trade, investment, employment and income growth throughout the world.” The ministers adopted a declaration in which they welcomed “the stronger and clearer legal framework they ha[d] adopted for the conduct of international trade, including a more effective and reliable dispute settlement mechanism.”

From the outset, the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute-settlement system has enjoyed wide praise from WTO members, trade law practitioners and legal scholars, and, despite some criticisms voiced from time to time, it is readily regarded as effective and reliable and a significant improvement over dispute-settlement procedures employed under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The diversity, economic importance and subject-matter significance of the disputes submitted for resolution attest to the confidence members have that the system will resolve their trade irritants fairly and impartially. The results of those disputes have contributed importantly to the development of international trade law in the last 20 years.

As a major player in the WTO dispute-settlement system, both in helping craft its terms and in bringing and defending important trade challenges, Canada can take some credit for the success the WTO dispute-settlement mechanism has enjoyed since its establishment in 1995.

Part of Series

Canada in International Law at 150 and Beyond/Canada et droit international : 150 ans d’histoire et perspectives d’avenir

Marking 150 years since Confederation provides an opportunity for Canadian international law practitioners and scholars to reflect on Canada’s past, present and future in international law and governance. This series of essays, written in the official language chosen by the authors, that provides a critical perspective on Canada’s past and present in international law, surveys the challenges that lie before us and offers renewed focus for Canada’s pursuit of global justice and the rule of law. The project leaders were Oonagh E. Fitzgerald, director of the International Law Research Program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI); Valerie Hughes, CIGI senior fellow, adjunct assistant professor of law at Queen’s University and former director at the World Trade Organization; and Mark Jewett, CIGI senior fellow, counsel to the law firm Bennett Jones, and former general counsel and corporate secretary of the Bank of Canada. The series was published as a book titled Reflections on Canada’s Past, Present and Future in International Law/Réflexions sur le passé, le présent et l’avenir du Canada en matière de droit international in spring 2018.

About the Author

Valerie Hughes is a senior fellow at CIGI, senior counsel with Bennett Jones LLP and adjunct assistant professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University.