The Judicial Sensibility of the WTO Appellate Body

Abstract

When the World Trade Organization’s new dispute settlement machinery was created in 1995, no one knew for certain what its consequences would be. Innovative and experimental in crucial respects, it represented an extraordinary gambit by the Uruguay Round negotiators, who agreed to its creation partly out of frustration with the perceived deficits of the General Agreement of Tariff and Trade’s enforcement machinery, partly out of fear of unilateralism and partly in the context of a particular moment of post-Cold War faith in the international rule of law. Although a mythology very quickly emerged around this new dispute settlement machinery, according to which it represented a step-change from power-oriented to rule-oriented trade diplomacy, this was in truth always more of an aspirational expression rather than a statement of fact. In the mid-1990s, the new system had many possible futures, and its historical meaning was yet to be made. No one was more conscious of this than the seven original members of the Appellate Body, who understood well the stakes of their endeavour and felt very keenly the scrutiny of the international community as it watched how this institutional experiment would unfold.

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