The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has dealt a blow to the hopes of international lawyers wanting to launch legal actions by exploiting World Trade Organisation (WTO) rulings. It has ruled that WTO decisions and agreements are essentially diplomatic and will have no direct effect on EU law.

Unusually, the court has opposed the relevant advocate-general Antonio Tizzano, who advised that EU law could be declared void when conflicting with WTO treaties and disputes settlement decisions. Had this opinion stood, EU lawyers could have taken the EU and national governments to court when they flouted WTO rules.

World Trade Law Assoc-iation treasurer Iain MacVay said: “It’s disappointing that the court continues to see the WTO as a diplomatic tool and doesn’t acknowledge the binding legal effect in international law of WTO rulings.”