The evolution of the GATT/WTO Accession Protocol: Legal tightening and domestic ratification

Where are the legal roots of WTO Accession Protocols? How much was carried over from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade standard and practice? What customary practice governs the preparation and approval of accession decisions and protocols? What is the current substantive standard and basic architecture of Accession Protocols? Are there unique provisions in Accession Protocols that have emerged in twenty years of WTO accession history? To what extent do Accession Protocols come into play in the context of WTO dispute settlement? By comparing the empirical data contained in the WTO Accession Protocols with preceding GATT Accession Protocols, this chapter offers waterfront coverage of WTO Accession Protocols from the GATT baseline. The chapter shows that, although rooted in its GATT predecessor base, and remarkably consistent over time, some unique provisions have been incorporated into the architecture of the WTO Accession Protocols since 1995. Because Accession Protocols become integral parts of WTO Agreement after they come into force, the chapter argues that the specific ‘terms and conditions of accession’ in WTO Accession Protocols have had a direct and salutary impact on the entirety of the WTO Agreement through its tightened safeguard and upgrade. The chapter concludes by arguing that the evidence suggests that the WTO Agreement has been expanded by the absorption of the Accession Protocols over the course of the last twenty years, and that the effect on the WTO Agreement has been significant, rather than marginal.

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