Low-Income Developing Countries and WTO Litigation: Why Wake Up the Sleeping Dog?

Elsig, Manfred; Stucki, Philipp (2012). Low-Income Developing Countries and WTO Litigation: Why Wake Up the Sleeping Dog? Review of international political economy, 19(2), pp. 292-316. Routledge 10.1080/09692290.2010.528313

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) is one of the most judicialized dispute settlement systems in international politics. While a general appreciation has developed that the system has worked quite well, research has not paid sufficient attention to the weakest actors in the system. This paper addresses the puzzle of missing cases of least-developed countries initiating WTO disputes settlement procedures. It challenges the existing literature on developing countries in WTO dispute settlement which predominantly focuses on legal capacity and economic interests. The paper provides an argument that the small universe of ‘actionable cases’, the option of free riding and the assessment of the perceived opportunity costs related to other foreign policy priorities better explain the absence of cases. In addition (and somewhat counterintuitively), we argue that the absence of cases is not necessarily bad news and shows how the weakest actors can use the dispute settlement system in a ‘lighter version’ or in indirect ways. The argument is empirically assessed by conducting a case study on four West African cotton-producing countries (C4) and their involvement in dispute settlement.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science
02 Faculty of Law > Department of Economic Law > World Trade Institute
10 Strategic Research Centers > World Trade Institute

02 Faculty of Law > Department of Economic Law > NCCR International Trade Regulation

UniBE Contributor:

Elsig, Manfred


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science








Manfred Elsig

Date Deposited:

24 Apr 2014 16:34

Last Modified:

31 May 2017 12:40

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