Friday, January 25, 2013

An electronic repository of all dispute settlement cases at the WTO

The WTO website is one of the most informative sites I have come across. The ease of access and information content is truly appreciative. I have blogged about it earlier too. 

The WTO recently had a "Trade Data Day" event organized which interalia had a presentation by Valerie Hughes on the "Digital Dispute Settlement Registry Database" that would be available sometime in 2013. The presentation of the main features of the Registry is found here.

The main features of the Registry are that apart from being an electronic repository for all dispute settlement cases it would be a storehouse of information with latest "search" facilities. Sophisticated searches on claims addressed in panels and appeals, Agreements covered, key words, procedural rulings, panelists-specific date and multi-member queries would be possible. This use of technology to enhance transparency and availability of data in forms and structures of one's liking is immensely democratizing. One hopes that this facility would kick off soon so that access to valuable insights of the dispute resolution process is available to interested readers! Imagine being able to access information on the way panelists have decided on the chapeau test of Article XX in panels over the last 18 years. 

Some facts about the dispute settlement process I picked from the presentation referred to above:

 - 455 disputes in 18 years
 - 100 members have participated (63% from developing countries)
 - 250 different people have served as panelists from 50 countries
 - Amicus curiae briefs received in 35 disputes
 - Open hearings in 11 disputes

One would hope that the Registry is available soon to make access to dispute settlement cases more meaningful and enriching!

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