China and the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism

Authors: Jacques H. J. Bourgeois


This working paper elaborates on China’s approach towards and use of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM). It builds on statistical data and existing opinions in the literature to demonstrate the evolution of China’s behaviour as a participant in the DSM. It also endeavours however to take the analysis one step further and to determine whether China’s adherence to the DSM may be less genuine than this of the other WTO Members, notably in comparison to its main trading partners – the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (US). To this end, an examination of China’s arguments put forward as a respondent in WTO proceedings is undertaken in search of suggested restrictive interpretations of its obligations under the WTO Agreement. The paper goes on and poses the question whether indeed such attitude could be characterised as systematic and whether traditional sovereignty-bound considerations underlie it. Conclusions are drawn as to the existing balance between national regulatory autonomy and global governance in the WTO legal system, the importance of which may go beyond China’s economic and political context.