Chapter 2: The evolution of the GATT/WTO dispute settlement system
In the light of the nexus that exists between institutional dispute settlement and the debate on compliance, this section discusses the relevance of introducing dispute settlement provisions in international economic agreements. The proliferation of international trade and investment agreements in recent decades has led to a series of fragmented dispute resolution facilities. Although almost all regional, bilateral or multilateral agreements, whatever their nature, endorse peaceful settlement of disputes as an important aspect of the agreement in question, the true meaning of what constitutes a dispute for the purpose of dispute settlement has been subject to disagreement. The first very general definition of dispute in this field is to be found in the Mavrommatis Palestine Concessions case where the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) stated that ‘[a] dispute is a disagreement on a point of law or fact, a conflict of legal views or of interests between two persons’. And 26 years later the International Court of Justice (ICJ) defined a dispute as ‘a situation in which the two sides held clearly opposite views concerning the question of the performance or non-performance of certain treaty obligations’. Consequently, determination of the existence of a dispute is important in the delimitation of the contours of the application of a particular dispute settlement mechanism. A dispute arising from an international instrument is, therefore, generally seen as a disagreement between two or more entities – typically, but not exclusively, states – over the interpretation and application of the international instrument in question.
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