Procedural legal basis

The GATT 1947 contained two main provisions on dispute settlement: Article XXII (Consultation) and Article XXIII (Nullification or Impairment), which formed the legal basis for the resolution of GATT disputes, and continue to be relevant in the WTO context. In addition to these provisions, the CONTRACTING PARTIES adopted various practices and decisions on dispute settlement procedures.

The plurilateral Tokyo Round codes that were finalized in 1979 had their own dedicated provisions on dispute settlement. These separate procedures account for approximately one-quarter of the disputes and became increasingly important in the 1990s.  

Typically, the GATT contracting party challenging a measure would cite the relevant legal basis, i.e. the provision for requesting the initiation of dispute proceedings. However, this was not always the case. When no provision was cited, this database has relied on the language used by the contracting parties in the ensuing procedure to see whether the legal basis could be determined, including whether it corresponded to a dispute settlement provision.

When GATT contracting parties took a decision to establish a “panel” in the broader sense of the term – that is, as a group mandated to discuss an issue more generally, this database did not classify it as a GATT dispute. Most of these cases dealt with discussions on quantitative restrictions, subsidies, balance of payment matters, safeguards, customs unions or renegotiations of schedules of concessions, and typically involved consultations under relevant provisions of the GATT 1947 other than Articles XXII or XXIII.