Allowed, but impossible: the introduction (chapeau) of article XX of the GATT in the interpretation of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body

Available in Russian

Author: Bikmametova Regina

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2016-2-87-94

Keywords: GATT Article XX; WTO Dispute Settlement Body


The article analyses the provisions of the introduction (the Chapeau) to the GATT Article XX. The use of the “general exceptions” provided by GATT Article XX allows retreating from the established the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade rules. And the introduction to the Article XX provides that if such measures are not used as a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries or a disguised restriction on international trade, nothing in the GATT rules does prevent the adoption or enforcement by any contracting party of measures enshrined in the Article XX. The purpose of the Chapeau is to maintain a balance between the interests of the WTO members by imposing a ban on the abuse of the application of the provisions of the GATT Article XX. And although there are no precise boundaries between the categories covered by the Chapeau, in assessing the contested issues the WTO DSB considers circumstances of the case in question and evaluates the final result, as well as the actual result of the measures applied by WTO participant. In general, the experience and current practice of the WTO DSB confirms that the Chapeau effectively performs its role of preventing abuses by members of the WTO. But at the same time there is a risk that in the context of high legal standards, the use of the “general exceptions” provided by the Article XX, may become rather difficult, if not completely impossible.

About the author: Regina Bikmametova –  Ph.D. student in International Law, Lomonosov Moscow State University.

Citation: Bikmametova R. (2016) Kogda razreshennoe nevozmozhno: vvedenie stat’i XX GATT v tolkovanii organa po razresheniyu sporov VTO [When permitted is impossible: the introduction (Chapeau) of article XX of the GATT in the interpretation of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body]. Mezhdunarodnoye pravosudie, no.1, pp.87–94. (In Russian).


Bartels L. (2014) The Chapeau of Article XX GATT: A New Interpretation. University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper, no.40. Available at: (accessed 24.07.2015).

Lavranos N. (2009) The Brazilian Tyres Case: Trade Supersedes Health. Trade, Law and Development, vol.1, no.2, pp.230–258.

Ispolinov A.S. (2013) Delo o tyulenyakh v VTO: yashchik Pandory ili ocherednoy konflikt pravoporyadka VTO i prava ES [Seal dispute in the WTO: Pandora’s box or another conflict of the WTO rules and EU laws]. Evraziyskii yuridicheskiy zhurnal, no.6, pp.41–45. (In Russian).

Nielsen L. (2010) Tyuleniy spor: emotsional’nye i pravovye stavki ochen' vysoki [Seal dispute: the emotional and legal stakes are very high]. Bridges Review, vol.3, no.4. Available atмосты/news/тюлений-спор-эмоциональные-и-правовые-ставки-очень-высоки (accessed 22.03.2016). (In Russian).

Smbatyan A.S. (2013) Sderzhit li VTO “nashestvie” tyuleney v ES? [Would the WTO stop the “invasion” of the seals to the EU?]. Evraziyskii yuridicheskiy zhurnal, no.6, pp.45–51. (In Russian).

Smbatyan A.S., Tymma S.V. (2015) Redkozemel’nye metally kak povod zadumat’sya o normativnoy tsennosti pravovykh pozitsiy ORS VTO [Rare earth metals as a cause to think about normative value of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body’s legal reasoning]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, no.1, pp.102–117. (In Russian).