Journal Article

Decision-Making in the World Trade Organization

Claus-Dieter Ehlermann and Lothar Ehring

in Journal of International Economic Law

Volume 8, issue 1, pages 51-75
Published in print March 2005 | ISSN: 1369-3034
Published online March 2005 | e-ISSN: 1464-3758 | DOI:
Decision-Making in the World Trade Organization

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  • Financial Law
  • Public International Law
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Globalization creates a demand for international rule-making, and the WTO remains the forum for creating binding and enforceable international trade rules. The WTO therefore needs an effective decision-making system capable of resolving diverging interests. Although the WTO Agreement foresees votes where consensus cannot be reached, the practice of consensus dominates the process of decision-making. The GATT 1947 only spoke of voting and did not mention the word ‘consensus’. The WTO Agreement reflects the evolution from votes to consensus in the GATT 1947. Nevertheless, voting was not abandoned in the WTO Agreement. Although the consensus practice generally works well, it nevertheless implies the risk of deadlock and in particular the Membership’s inability to respond legislatively where it disagrees with a panel’s or the Appellate Body’s legal interpretation. Consensus also inherently favours the status quo and can make it extremely difficult to achieve change. Consensus does not provide for equality (in terms of decision and influence) because not every Member has the same ability to maintain vetoes. Consensus of course has many advantages, but it is questionable whether it is also more democratic than the majority rule.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Financial Law ; Public International Law ; Economics

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