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Abstract

After more than twenty years of operation, the WTO dispute settlement system, despite all its contribution to the rule-based international trade regime, is not free from internal problems. It can be observed that there is significant tension between WTO members, and between WTO members and the judicial body. This Thesis seeks to identify the source of internal tension; the result can serve as basis for the proposal of plausible solutions based on the review result. This Thesis analyzes the initial design of the rules (the “original contract”) and subsequent practices accumulated in the operation of the system through the three narratives based on which actor is in control: (1) “Members Driven”: control is collectively exercised by all WTO members; (2) “Judicial Body Driven” narrative: the judicial body controls the operation of the system; and (3) “Member Driven” narrative: the system is controlled by a powerful WTO member. This Thesis argues that the source of tension arises from the dissonance of narratives between original contract and subsequent practice: the former is designed to be a “Members Driven” system, but certain subsequent practices followed other narratives that cannot be further supported by the proper process of collective decision-making, thus becoming the source of instability when WTO members hold different views on the rules and reasonable practice. From this observation, this Thesis proposes a number of proposals that would close the narrative gap, where WTO members can adopt means to resolve controversies on a “Members Driven” basis.

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