Translation: Dispute settlement of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

Mexico - 28 July 2020

Trade topics: Trade Dispute Settlement Systems, Trade Negotiations

The experience to date in the WTO suggests that the plurilingual nature of the WTO Agreements does not make treaty interpretation significantly more difficult than it would be with a text authentic in one language only. The terms of a plurilingual treaty are presumed to have the same meaning in each authentic text, which means that a treaty interpreter need not compare the authentic texts as a routine matter as a matter of law. Nevertheless, routine comparison of authentic texts is good practice in the WTO context, since there are several linguistic discrepancies that could affect the interpretation of WTO provisions. However, language issues also arise with respect to the accuracy of translation of documents whose original language is not an official WTO language, such as Chinese or Russian. Translation of panel and Appellate Body reports into other official languages can also be a source of discrepancies. While these discrepancies can be resolved by referring to the original language in which the report was drafted, they still have the potential to cause difficulties. Translation: Dispute settlement of the World Trade Organization (WTO), in Hélène Ruiz Fabri, Rüdiger Wolfrum (Eds.), Max Planck Encyclopedia of International Procedural Law (forthcoming OUP, 2020).

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not represent the views of the WTO.

This article builds on the author’s earlier research: B Condon, ‘The concordance of multilingual legal texts at the WTO’ (2012) 33(6) Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 525-538; and B Condon, ‘Lost in Translation: Plurilingual: Interpretation of WTO Law’ (2010) 1(1) Journal of International Dispute Settlement 191-216.

Author(s): Bradly J. Condon