Chapter 3: Applicable law before the WTO disputes settlement body
As with other areas of international law, the public international law of trade is derived from a variety of sources that are not all of equal significance. In other words, the body of rules that may be regarded as sources by a WTO panel or AB are not hierarchically of equal significance when it comes to practical application. While municipal law is principally produced by national parliaments, the same does not apply at international level because there is no international parliament. Due to this lack of a centrally elected international legislator, the international legal system is a decentralised structure. As noted by Charles Rousseau almost a century ago, the law governing the activities of nation-states is one of cooperation and not of subordination. While the sources of municipal law may be straightforward, discovering where a particular rule of international law is to be found or whether a particular rule forms part of international law is not that straightforward. As is true of other inter-governmental organisations, the WTO is a member-driven organisation and only WTO members, as subjects of international law, may design and agree on the body of rules that will govern their activities and relationships with one another. In other words, consent is a key element in the formation of WTO law.
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