How will Disputes be resolved under the AfCFTA Dispute Settlement Protocol?
One of the first accomplishments of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) negotiations was the adoption of the Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes. It was agreed during Phase I of the AfCFTA negotiations, together with the Protocols on Trade in Goods and on Trade in Services. It has recently been expanded by adding rules of procedure for the AfCFTA Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) and a Decision to formally establish the Appellate Body and to consider an update on State Party nominations to the Indicative List of Panellists.
The Dispute Settlement Protocol is a detailed document that allows for the settlement of disputes among the State Parties about the interpretation or application of any of the AfCFTA’s legal instruments. The general design of this regime replicates that of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) but it also contains some unique elements. This paper discusses the main features of the Dispute Settlement Mechanism of the AfCFTA and some of the implications for trade governance. If this Dispute Settlement Mechanism modifies the traditional intra-African approach to how disputes about trade-related issues are resolved, it could bring about major changes to trade governance on the continent.
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