The Creation of the Multilateral Trade Court: Design and Experiential Learning

Elsig, Manfred; Eckhardt, Jappe (2015). The Creation of the Multilateral Trade Court: Design and Experiential Learning. World trade review, 14(S1), S13-S32. Cambridge University Press 10.1017/S1474745615000130

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The creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO)'s dispute settlement system (DSS) in 1995 remains one of the most puzzling outcomes in international politics and international law in the 1990s. We provide a new explanation for this move to law. We argue that important contextual variables of the negotiations have been largely overlooked by existing explanations, namely ‘experiential learning’. While negotiations to create institutions are characterized by uncertainty about distributional effects, negotiators will look for clues that moderate uncertainty. In the context of the Uruguay Round negotiations, a significant amount of information was drawn from actual practice and experience with the existing General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) dispute settlement system. In short, experience gained with judicial institutions and outcomes is important to understand the key results of the negotiations: a legalization leap, more specifically a judicialization of the existing dispute settlement system. We focus on the two dominant actors in the negotiations (the United States and the (then) European Community) and provide evidence for our argument based on an analysis of GATT cases in the 1980s, GATT documents, and in-depth interviews with negotiators who participated in the negotiations.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Other Institutions > Teaching Staff, Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences
02 Faculty of Law > Department of Economic Law > World Trade Institute
10 Strategic Research Centers > World Trade Institute

11 Centers of Competence > KPM Center for Public Management

UniBE Contributor:

Elsig, Manfred


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 380 Commerce, communications & transportation
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 340 Law




Cambridge University Press




Pablo Rahul Das

Date Deposited:

09 May 2017 09:59

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:04

Publisher DOI:





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