Experiment: analysing WTO disputes

Since writ­ing a “book for WTO”:http://www.aspenpublishers.com/Product.asp?catalog_name=Aspen&product_id=9041198857 on their Dis­putes Set­tle­ment sys­tem a cou­ple of years ago I have found that even expe­ri­enced ana­lysts some­times have trou­ble fig­ur­ing out the key ele­ments of dis­putes deci­sions. So I’m exper­i­ment­ing with the use of “argu­ment maps”:http://www.austhink.org/critical/pages/argument_mapping.html as means of teas­ing out the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Pan­el and the Appel­late Body in dis­putes. The image below ( scroll right ) is not a true argu­ment map: it maps only part of the con­clu­sions of the Appel­late Body (AB) in a recent mod­er­ate­ly com­plex case. But I haven’t yet found a good way to rep­re­sent the argu­ment of the appel­lants as well as the rec­om­men­da­tion of the AB. The case, inci­den­tal­ly, deals with a dif­fi­cult legal issue for WTO: when is dis­crim­i­na­tion in favour of poor coun­tries not dis­crim­i­na­tion?

EUPref­er­encesAB­Con­clu­sions

May 2009: Map updat­ed to use Scribd. Please use the “full screen” zoom and the “mag­ni­fy­ing glass” zoom adjust­ment on the Scribd tool­bar to view at a com­fort­able res­o­lu­tion

Please let me know whether this map makes sense to you. Do you think this sort of thing is like­ly to improve under­stand­ing of com­plex issues? There is a dan­ger that such a map might impose anoth­er ‘lay­er’ of inter­pre­ta­tion with­out real­ly clar­i­fy­ing the issues. What do you think? You can find the WTO doc­u­ment con­tain­ing the AB report “here”:http://docsonline.wto.org:80/DDFDocuments/t/WT/DS/246ABR.doc

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