Discontinuity in the Internalization of the World Trade Organization Rules: Assessing the Democratic Deficit Critique Against the World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement System


  • Yuka Fukunaga




International institutions are often criticized for their democratic deficit. Among these institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement system is most frequently targeted. This article focuses on the strength of this critique and aims to refute its factual premise through the examination of several Panel and Appellate Body decisions. The author also argues that the WTO dispute settlement system deliberately leaves a certain degree of discontinuity between members’ domestic legal orders and the WTO Agreement, such that the system pays a degree of deference to member states and allows substantial discretion in the process of internalizing the rules of the WTO Agreement within domestic legal orders. Finally, the author concludes that this discontinuity remains strong, and serves to enhance the democratic autonomy of member states instead of defeating it.

Author Biography

Yuka Fukunaga

Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences, Waseda University (Tokyo, Japan). This research is partly funded by the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (Japan).