A ‘More Economic Approach’ to WTO Law’s Relevant Market Definition, Trade Harm, and Quantification of Trade Effects and Countermeasures : A Normative Law and Economics Comparison with EU Competition Law

University dissertation from Uppsala : Department of Law, Uppsala University

Abstract: Having recently registered the 500th dispute at its docket, the WTO dispute settlement system is as prolific and relevant as ever. By almost any measure, it is a great success; it has contributed to bolstering the WTO’s legitimacy, increased the judicialisation of WTO Members’ trade relations, and promoted the scientification of public international law. With regard to the latter phenomenon, part of the empirical turn in WTO law is manifested as increasing reliance on economic theory and method, and econometric evidence in dispute settlement. Positive as that development may be due to the promise it holds for diminished judicial discretion, it increases complexity and poses questions as to the system’s capacity to administer WTO law in an efficient and effective manner, with implications for its legitimacy. Despite economics’ increased relevance, WTO law has not devised a way to implement a suitable response and its approach seems ambivalent. By contrast, EU competition law has undergone (arguably, successfully) a conscious transition to a 'more economic approach'. Could its experience provide guidance for the implementation of a more economic approach to WTO law, despite the two systems' institutional differences?This monograph compares WTO law and dispute settlement’s approach to economics with EU competition law’s more economic approach. The applied method is normative comparative law and economics and the relevant benchmarks adopted are administrability, effectiveness, and efficiency, taking into account legal certainty, predictability, consistency, coherence, clarity, deterrence, capacity, and the effects of judicial mistake.Three broad aspects of the two systems are compared: market definition and 'likeness', theories of harm and trade effects, and quantification in sanctions and remedies. Through detailed description of the two systems’ features and thorough evaluation according to the benchmarks, WTO law is shown to be less administrable, effective, and efficient than EU competition law. Explanations unrelated to the more economic approach are sought, but the majority are rejected.The monograph makes normative conclusions for WTO law’s improvement through the correct implementation of a more economic approach. Most importantly, it suggests increased capacity for all key actors in WTO dispute settlement and innovative ways to understand fundamental WTO concepts such as 'likeness', 'less favourable treatment', trade harm, trade effects, and the level of permissible countermeasures.

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