The birth of the World Trade Organization (WTO) marked the end of an era in which international trade was governed by the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1947). With the refusal of the United States Congress to ratify the Charter of the International Trade Organization (Havana Charter) GATT 1947 was the only means left for the regulation of international trade relations. It was originally conceived as a provisional multilateral agreement for tariff reduction without any reference to a specific institutional umbrella. In spite of its many shortcomings, GATT 1947 gradually evolved into a de facto international organization which helped establish a strong and prosperous multilateral trading system through many rounds of trade negotiations. Although GATT 1947 is now reduced to its original status as a multilateral agreement, its history of decisions, procedures and customary practices still form an important element for the interpretation and understanding of the WTO and its provisions.

The World Trade Organization is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business. The World Trade Organization is a central player in international trade regulation. The rights and duties that form WTO law are not created in a vacuum, however, and there exists a complex network of domestic, regional and international influences on the development of WTO law that go beyond the disciplines found in the covered agreements or the interpretations given by panels and the Appellate Body. As such, understanding the development of WTO law in a wider institutional context is critical to comprehending WTO law in a new age of legal globalization.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on the World Trade Organization (WTO). It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's subject heading (keywords) World Trade Organization is instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.


Sources of international law



Reference works

Selected books and articles

For all peer-reviewed articles in the PPL Catalogue, click here.

Periodicals, serial publications