Ir Arriba

The WTO dispute settlement system and its relationship to trade in agricultural goods

Event Date
San José, Costa Rica


Today’s globalized economy obliges countries to carefully manage both their domestic and international trade relations. This has led to the establishment of bilateral, regional and multilateral trade agreements (like that of the WTO), to enable the countries to agree on standards that guarantee protection, safety, predictability and transparency. The mechanism that ensures compliance with what is agreed within the organization is the WTO dispute settlement system.

The WTO multilateral dispute settlement system offers the organization’s members numerous advantages: it is designed to be impartial, resolve disputes quickly, ensure that members are treated equitably and consistently and, perhaps most important of all, it takes into account members’ level of development and enables them to question domestic support and subsidies for agriculture, something that is not possible under regional or bilateral mechanisms.


Objective: to enhance knowledge among IICA member countries of aspects of the institutional framework and policies related to agricultural trade that fall within the thematic purview of IICA’s flagship project on agricultural chains. The activity will also focus on members’ participation in international forums.


General objective: to raise awareness of the importance of the multilateral dispute settlement system of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for agricultural trade by Latin American and Caribbean countries.


Specific objectives:

  • Provide an opportunity to reflect on the functioning of existing dispute settlement mechanisms and the contributions they make to trade in agricultural goods, especially in the case of developing countries.
  • Identify the benefits of participating in the WTO dispute settlement mechanism for the countries of the Americas, especially developing ones, and the challenges involved.


Participating institutions:

Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). WTO Reference Center at IICA Headquarters.

World Trade Organization (WTO). Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC); Legal Affairs Division.


Rationale for holding the Technical Forum:

According to data compiled by the WTO, the United States and Canada are the IICA member countries that have made most use of the dispute settlement system. However, Latin American and Caribbean countries have availed themselves of the system much less frequently. This suggests that economic, political and technical challenges still prevent small economies from playing a more active part in the system and tapping its benefits, or make them turn to regional mechanisms to resolve their differences instead.

Given the proliferation of preferential trade agreements and the trend towards production within value chains, it is important that representatives of governments and businesses, as well as academia, recognize the importance and usefulness of the mechanisms to which they can have recourse when differences arise with regard to the application of trade measures that affect agricultural trade.

All of IICA’s Member States are full members of the WTO, with the exception of The Bahamas, which is in the process of seeking membership as an observer. Many members have been involved in cases related to agricultural goods, as complainants, respondents or third parties. It is in view of this, and given IICA and the WTO’s work in helping to enhance institutional capabilities for participating in international trade forums, that this forum is being held.


The forum will consist of three parts:

  1. Presentation on how the WTO dispute settlement mechanism works, how it relates to agricultural trade, and its importance for developing countries. Attention will be drawn to some countries in the Americas that use the system for issues related to agricultural goods, or invoke the Agreement on Agriculture.
  2. Comments and questions.
  3. Conclusions and closing remarks.

The forum will take the form of a video conference, livestreamed in Spanish and English to IICA’s 34 member countries throughout the Americas.