Executive Summary



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The Issue:
The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is in the process of being created. Using existing free trade regimes and their dispute resolution mechanisms (DRMs) as examples, it is clear that such regimes often overlook non-trade related considerations, such as the environment. This trend will likely continue under the FTAA unless its DRM differs significantly from those of existing trade regimes.


Research questions:
1. How do the current trade DRMs of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) function?
2. What weaknesses in the processes of these existing DRMs prevent "good" decisions from being reached?
3. How can these processes be improved upon to provide DRMs for the FTAA that will result in "good" decisions?


A literature review was conducted to broaden our understanding of how the DRMs of WTO/GATT, NAFTA, and the future FTAA function, and to reveal weaknesses in these mechanisms. A list of potential recommendations for the DRM of the FTAA was drafted and brought before individuals from diverse areas of interest and expertise in interviews to gauge their responses and include additional recommendations. The pros and cons of each recommendation, as revealed through the literature and interviews, were considered in determining their desirability.


We advise the following be applied to the DRM of the future FTAA:
1.1 Publication of all dispute settlement proceedings at all stages of the process.
1.2 Publication of documents through all major mass media.
2.1 Publication of panelists' names and backgrounds.
2.2 Regulations preventing conflicts of interest of panelists.
3.1 Required consideration of submissions from third parties (ie. amicus briefs).
3.2 Institutionalized consultation of neutral advisory bodies.
3.3 Diversification of panelist roster to include expertise beyond trade.
5.1 Provision of funds and technical assistance for nations and small organizations to access the process.

We feel that these recommendations will help the FTAA move toward a 'good' dispute settlement process in which decisions reflect the concerns of those effected by an issue, take into account all expertise pertaining to the issue, and are fully transparent to all stakeholders.