Who Rules the Rulings? Disputant Strength and Legal Preparedness in World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Proceedings
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The World Trade Organization's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) offers member states a legal mechanism by which they can arbitrate trade disputes. The DSB has the potential to promote equality and justice in the international trade system, yet critics have raised concerns about potential biases that may undermine the legitimacy of this institution. We hypothesize that cases involving more wealthy countries are may be more likely to reach the panel stage of proceedings, but the panel is less likely to rule in favor of member states that present overly elaborate legal arguments. Using the WTO Dispute Settlement Data Set (Hoekman et al. 2016), we construct a dyadic dataset of all WTO consultations from 1995-2012 and analyze the factors that determine whether cases reach the panel stage of settlement proceedings and, once at this stage, what determines whether the DSB rules in favor of the primary complainant or the defendant (or respondent).