The WTO- Plus Obligations: Dual Class or a Strengthened System?

Obligations in accession protocols that go beyond the multilateral trade agreements are commonly referred to as ‘WTO-plus’ obligations. This chapter reviews the so-called WTO-plus obligations and argues that even though they are perceived to expand the existing obligations under multilateral trade agreements, they in fact do not create two classes of membership within the World Trade Organization (WTO). First, all accession processes are conducted on a case-by-case basis, and thus result in different obligations for each acceding government. Second, the WTO legal system is evolving continuously; therefore, to adopt new rules and advance the legal system, obligations cannot remain the same as in previous accessions. Third, non-discrimination remains one of the fundamental principles of the multilateral trading system. Accessions to WTO follow this principle and hence WTO-plus obligations have been and will continue to be set on a non-discriminatory basis. At the same time, WTO-plus obligations help upgrade the rules-based multilateral trading system. They fill gaps in the WTO rules on anti-dumping, countervailing and safeguard regimes, and they advance WTO rules by promoting plurilateral agreements.

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