Trade Protectionism and the WTO — What do the numbers show as to WTO Litigation? It’s really not clear

Trade Protectionism and the WTO — What do the numbers show as to WTO Litigation? It’s really not clear. First, let’s look at the numbers.
Two  recent announcements by Global Trade Alert and the WTO indicate that  the number of protectionist actions introduced by countries in 2010 and 2011 were much higher than previously thought. “Economic Gloom Puts Free Trade at Risk.” Financial Times (June 14, 2012).
The new Annual Report for 2011 issued by the Appellate Body of the WTO (June 13, 2012) discloses: (i) increase in percentage of panel reports appealed in 2011 in comparison with 2010 was from 40% to 63%; (ii) the number of appeals filed during this period increased from 3 to 9; (iii) the top 7 states involved as parties or third-parties in appeals for 1995 – 2011 were the U.S. (140), the EU (123), Japan (64), India (65), China (41), Mexico (40). Appellate Body Annual Report for 2011 (WTO June 13,  2012).
The number of new disputes filed from 2010 to 2011 decreased from 17 to 8. The U.S. remains as the most litigious state (211 total cases) with the EU second (with with 155 total cases). Annual Report of the WTO 2012. 
One more statistic. The number of domestic antidumping actions initiated worldwide from 2010 to 2011 dropped from 170 to 68.    Antidumping Investigations 1995 – 2011 (WTO 2011).
To me what the above shows is while more protectionist measures have been introduced the last two years the actual number of new WTO cases filed have decreased. Yes, the number of appeals of existing cases have increased slightly. Yet, new domestic antidumping cases have not increased. (These are the cases that are often brought to the WTO.) The U.S. and the EU remain the WTO’s greatest users of the dispute resolution system.
Only time will tell if the newer trade measures will result in more litigation. I suspect they may or maybe not. It’s always good to look at the numbers.

About Stuart Malawer

Distinguished Service Professor of Law & International Trade at George Mason University (Schar School of Public Policy).
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