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Developing Countries in the WTO Legal System$
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Joel P. Trachtman and Chantal Thomas

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195383614

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195383614.001.0001

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Access to Justice in the WTO

Access to Justice in the WTO

A Case for a Small-Claims Procedure?

Developing Countries in the WTO Legal System

Håkan Nordström

Gregory Shaffer

Oxford University Press

The current dispute settlement system of the WTO creates a particular challenge for WTO Members with limited exports because litigation costs are more or less independent of the commercial stakes involved in a dispute. Small Members with small trade stakes may therefore find it too costly to pursue legitimate claims. Reviewing the aims and practices of small-claims procedures at the national and supranational level, this chapter analyzes whether a similar institution could be introduced at the WTO. It makes a prima facie case that the current dispute settlement system effectively discriminates against small claims and hence owners of small claims, and thus, in particular, against least-developed countries, small-island economies, and low-income developing countries. It explains what small-claims procedures are at the national level, what purpose they serve, how they are organized in different jurisdictions involving alternative design features, and what challenges they have faced. The chapter also explores the issues raised by adding a small-claims procedure in the WTO context and indicates specific design features that could address them.

Keywords:   WTO systems, dispute settlement, small-claims procedures, small-island economies, national level, supranational level

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