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A Rule-Based Architecture for the Energy Sector: The WTO and the ECT

by Natasha A. Georgiou - 13 December 2016 

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) framework is applicable to all trade with non-discrimination, transparency, legal certainty and a dispute settlement mechanism constituting the underlying pillars of the multilateral trading system. The WTO regulates trade relations between its members, which one would assume included energy as the largest and most significant primary commodity of global trade. However, unique features to energy have set this sector apart with the ongoing debate over the applicability of WTO disciplines to energy trade. For many years therefore trade in energy has been excluded from the WTO scope although this is not established by law. The role of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) in the international legal architecture should therefore not be underestimated in that it is the only energy specific multilateral agreement that covers all facets of energy within this strategic sector, including trade, transit, investment and energy efficiency. Furthermore, the ECT, which advocates non-derogation from the WTO, facilitates the general WTO legal framework with its investment and transit rules, which are more elaborate than that of the WTO.

The Occasional Paper is available in English.


The contents of this work are the author's sole responsibility. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Energy Charter Secretariat or any members of the Energy Charter Treaty.