Explaining Patterns of GATT/WTO Trade Complaints

Date Published:

Jan 1, 1998


Multilateral trade complaints are significant for politics because they serve as a stimulus for the targeted state to alter its status quo trade policy. This paper seeks to explain and predict patterns of multilateral trade complaints filed by states under the dispute settlement mechanism of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and its successor as of 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO). A two-level model of complaint-raising is proposed, which argues that variation in the design of GATT and WTO institutions affects the costs to governments of filing complaints -- such as bureaucratic costs, information costs, and opportunity costs -- and these costs in turn affect state strategies for domestic oversight of treaty compliance by one's trading partners. Specific hypotheses drawn from the model are tested against a data set of over 300 multilateral trade complaints, from 1948-1994 under the GATT and 1995-96 under the WTO.


WCFIA Working Paper 98-01, January 1998.
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