Opening the club - a liberal approach to private participation in the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement system


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




This thesis intends to provide an argument in favour of private participation in the dispute settlement system of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as an area of the world trading system most visible to but also most removed from the influence of private actors. Private participation is understood as the direct and formal involvement of non-governmental actors in dispute resolution. It will distinguish between passive and active participation, the former addressing the flow of information from the WTO to civil society (understood as the community of all Member societies affected by the world trading system), while the later is concerned with issues of access and standing. As first step, I will develop an analytical framework for international dispute settlement systems based on the three elements of actors, material scope and procedures, as well as the underlying theoretical conceptions for each element. After having given an overview of the relevant features of the world trading system and its dispute resolutions mechanisms as set forth in the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU) of the WTO, I continue by subsuming the DSU under the analytical framework. Based on the position of the DSU within the analytical framework, I will submit an argument in favour of private participation, drawing particularly from the international relations theory of liberalism. Parting from realist-institutionalist assumptions predominant in public international law, liberalism places the individual at the center of international and WTO law, opening the latter for new categories of international actors. Finally, taking into account the liberal reliance on individual rights and democratic participation, I will suggest models to implement private participation in WTO dispute settlement. My aim is to promote meaningful involvement of private actors whose interests and objectives are affected by the world trading system, with varying procedural roles reflecting their relation to the WTO's trade regime, ranging form passive participation, to party status, to amici curiae.


General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Organization); World Trade Organization.; Dispute resolution (Law)

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Law, Peter A. Allard School of