Seeking Mutual Understanding. A Discourse Theoretical Analysis of the WTO Dispute Settlement System.
The Dispute Settlement System (DSS) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is a mechanism to settle international trade controversies by means of adversarial procedures. In this paper we aim to address the following question: why is the DSS adversarial in kind and articulated through such sophisticated procedures? We shall combine studies in the fields of politics, law and economics through philosophical analysis to look for a systemic answer to this question in the inherent qualities of the procedures through which the DSS is articulated. Specifically, we shall resort to Jürgen Habermas’s discourse theory, as a hermeneutic device to disentangle the different kinds of “action orientations” DS procedures may have (compromise, consensus and understanding). We shall identify the reasons of the specific characterisation given to the DSS in the purposeful connections between its procedural features, the general aims pursued by the WTO and the disputes emerging within it.
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