International Trade > World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Resolution and Counseling

Success in dispute settlement proceedings before the World Trade Organization requires having at one’s disposal strong technical expertise concerning the WTO agreements on tariff and nontariff barriers as well as other trade-related agreements, such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) and plurilateral agreements, such as the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA). Furthermore, a WTO dispute is not only a legal proceeding, but also a diplomatic proceeding. It is a government-to-government forum in which diplomacy and policy are equally vital to the rule of law.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP’s WTO practice operates at the intersection of trade law and public policy, providing legal and policy advice while advocating before foreign and domestic governments for clients navigating the global, regional and bilateral rules of commerce and investment. We leverage our pre-eminent international trade group’s skills together with those of one of the most successful lobbying practices in the industry to provide clients comprehensive advice regarding the implications of the WTO for overseas investments, transactions and operations. The collaborative nature of our team provides direct value to our clients—we provide sophisticated and knowledgeable representation that brings to bear our understanding of WTO procedures and also weaves together policy and legal positions to make the strongest case possible on their behalf.

Our clients range from sovereign governments to private equity firms, Fortune 500 manufacturing companies, technology firms and major trade associations. These clients represent industries as diverse as agriculture, financial services, consumer electronics, semiconductors and manufactured goods and regions that span from North and Southeast Asia to Latin America to the Middle East.

Akin Gump enjoys a strong advantage in WTO representations due to our global reach (10 offices in the United States as well as offices in Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Geneva, Hong Kong, London and Moscow) and skilled lawyers with direct and substantive know-how of every agreement under the WTO umbrella and of every stage of a WTO dispute case. Collectively, our experience extends to representations in over 40 WTO disputes, covering issues such as trade in goods, trade remedies (antidumping, countervailing duty and safeguard cases), trade in services, intellectual property rights, investment, electronic commerce, subsidies, government procurement, customs and trade facilitation, and nontariff barriers, such as technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary matters.

The “Akin Gump” brand and our WTO team members are well-known in WTO circles. We are listed on the directory of external counsel at the Advisory Centre for WTO Law, and several members of our team are on the WTO’s indicative list of governmental and non-governmental panelists.

In addition to handling disputes before the WTO, Akin Gump assists governments in formulating and developing potential future WTO disputes, both offensively and defensively, as well as evaluating the strength of such cases. This proactive approach especially benefits clients looking to maintain a level playing field with trading partners as well as governments focused on ensuring consistency with WTO rules.

As WTO disputes necessarily involve government-to-government arbitration, of particular interest to our team is an approach that not only takes into account existing WTO disputes but also assists governments in building internal capacity to handle disputes on a more independent basis for future cases. Such an approach enables government clients to establish a working internal structure so they can be fully invested in decisionmaking that affects their long-term interests. It is essential that governments be able to conduct disputes on their own, managing the substance and procedures of a dispute, even if guidance from outside counsel is still needed for more complicated issues.