This article analyses the economic merits of the factual right of governments to interpose themselves as political filters ex ante of potential World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes. As analysed in this article, the current state of WTO law regarding the initiation of dispute settlement proceedings undermines the longterm objectives in pursuance of which states join trade agreements like the WTO Agreement in the first place. This article proposes the creation of an independent prosecution department within the WTO Secretariat, with an exclusive right to initiate dispute settlement proceedings. Without the existing discretionary filtering power, WTO membership would constitute a more credible commitment by governments that they wish to tie their hands in order to better resist domestic lobbying from powerful, importcompeting, industries, giving in to which might maximize the government's short-term political welfare but would be contrary to society's long-term interest in free trade.
[T]he true purpose of international [trade] negotiations is arguably not to protect us from unfair foreign competition, but to protect us from ourselves.
Paul KrugmanJournal of World Trade