The WTO's Dispute Settlement Procedures

Are They up to the Task after 10 Years?

In: The Journal of World Investment & Trade

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  • 1Guatemala — Anti-DumpingInvestigationRegardingPortlandCementfromMexico(Gllatemala-Cementi), Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS60/AB/R, adopted 25 November 1998, para. 64. The system's rules and procedures in the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Displltes (Dsu) apply to disputes arising under its "covered agreements", including the WTO Agreement. The covered agreements have their own "special or additional rules and procedures on dispute settlement" which prevail to the extent they are different from those in the Dsu. Unless otherwise agreed, disputes in relation to the applicability of these rules and procedures will be determined by the Chairman of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body in consultation with the parties. Procedural uncertainty and conflict may weaken and undermine the system (see for instance, WTO Article 21.5 Panel Report, Australia-Subsidies Provided to Producers and Exporters of Automotive Leather (Australia-Automotive Loather n), WT/DS126/RW, adopted 11 February 2000, as to the conflict between recommendations in Article 4.7 of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (Sctn Agreement), to withdraw a "prohibited subsidy" without delay, and Article 19.1 of the Dsu, to bring an inconsistent measure into conformity). The W ro's dispute settlement regime will be better served with uniform rules and procedures. 2 This was recently acknowledged by the Consultative Board to the W ro, established in June 2003 by the WTO's Director-General to prepare a report "on how to institutionally strengthen and equip the WTO to respond effectively to future economic challenges brought about by an increasingly integrated global economy". See its Report (hereafter Consultative Board Report), pages 49-50; available on the WTO Website, at: W7o Dispute Settlement at Ten: Evolution, Experiences and Evaluation, Aussenwirtschaft, Vol. 60, No. 1, 2005, pp. 27-61, at 35, gives a succinct summary of the academic view. 3 Complaints can be found on the WTO Website, at: www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispLl_e/ dispu_status_e.htm>; and adoption rates at: . 4 William J. Davey, The WTO Dispute Settlement System: The First Ten Years, Joumal of International Economic Law, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2005, 17-50, at 24. See also Andrew Guzman and Beth Simmons, Power Plays & Capacity Constraints: The Selection of Defendants in WTO Disputes, available at: ; and Christina L. Davis and Sarah B. Beniico, Who Filea? Developing Country Participation in Wto Adjudication, available at:

  • � WTO Agreement, Preamble. The WTO presently has 149 Members; see the WTO Website, at: . Statistics for developing and least developed countries are available at: ; and at: Remedies in the Wro Legal Systems; Between a Rock and a Hard 1'lace, E.J.LL., Vol. 11, 2000, 763-813, at 806. 1 Ibid., at 811.

  • "'japati-TaxesonAlcoholicBeveragesU,'pall-AlcoholicBeverages11), Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS8/AB/R, WT/DS10/AB/R and WT/DS11/AB/R, adopted 1 November 1996, at 15. See also Jide Nzelibe, The Credibility Imperative: TIle Politicnl Dynamics of Retaliation in the World Trade O(Rallisatioll's Dispute Resolution Mechanism, p. 35, available at: www.law.uchicago.edu/academics/pubbclaw/index.html,; Chi Carmody, Remedies and Conformity under the W7o Agreement, Journal of International Economic Law, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2002, 307-329, at 309; and Heinz Hauser and Alexander Roitinger, A Reneqotiation Perspective on Transatlantic Disputes, p. 10; available at: de jure discrimination in relation to Members' "most-favoured-nation"(MFN) and "national treatment" (NT) obligations. Although complete and therefore inflexible in a priniafacie sense, flexibility can be accommodated via recourse to the "escape" and "renegotiation" provisions in the WTO Agreements-thc safeguards provisions in Article XIX and the renegotiation provisions in Article XXVIII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Further, there are also exceptions to the MFN and NT obligations. See Henrik Horn and Petros C. Mavroidis, Still Hazy qfter All These Years: T6e Interpretation of Nationnl Treahnent in the GATT/WTO Case-Inw on Tax Discrimination, E.J.I.L., Vol. 15, No. 1, 2004, 39-69, at 54. 11 Nzelibe, ibid.; Cannody, ibid.; and Wilfred J. Ethier, Punishments and Dispute Settlement in Trade Agreements, pp. 4-5; available at: `www.bwl.uni-kiel.de/econ/ES-Old/ES-Papers/ethier.pdf. '= Ethier, ibid. 13 Warren F. Schwartz and Alan O. Sykes, The Economic Structure c?frenegotiatioti and Dispute Resolution in the World Trade Organisation, 31 J. Legal Stud. S179 (2002). 14 Nzelibe, supra, footnote 10, at 35. 15 Specific performance may be a remedy for those parts of the contract considered complete (see supra, footnote 10); however, recourse to "escape" or "renegotiation" provisions, or the MFN or NT "exceptions", may make this difficult. 16 Carmody, supra, footnote 10, at 309 and 329; and Hauser and Roitinger, supra, footnote 10.

  • 17 Carmody, ibid. �s Japatl-Alw¡'olic Beverages II, supra, footnote 10, at 31. 19 Dsu, Article 19.1. 20 Ibid., Article 21.1. 1. 21 Ibid., Article 21.3. 22 Carmody, supra, footnote 10, at 328; and Mavroidis, supra, footnote 8, at 793. 23 Ibid. za Carmody, ibid., at 328. 25 Ibid., at 322. 21 Ibid., at 309 and 328. 27 As contemplated in Article 19.1 of the Dsu. '8 Dsu, Article 3.10. Cannody observes that WTO panels have made suggestions in several cases, only to have these watered down by the Appellate Body, presumably in due deference to sovereignty: see Cannody, supra, footnote 10, at 318.

  • z9UnitedStates-TaxTreatmentfor"ForeignSalesCorporations"(U.S.-F.S.C), Report of the Panel, WT/DS108/ARB, circulated 30 August 2002, para. 6.9, footnote 72. See also Robert E. Hudec, Broadeninq the Scope of Remedies in WTO Dispute Settlement, p. 22, available at: supra, footnote 10, at 309. )1) WTO Agreement, Article XVI.4. 4. This is achieved via retaliation (better described as the suspension of concessions or other obligations to the wrongdoer), subject to such retaliation being "equivalent to the level of nullification or impairment": Dsu, Article 22.4. See also Mavroidis, supra, footnote 8, at 807; Nzelibe, supra, footnote 10, at 8-14; and Wilfred J. Ethier, Intellectual Property Rights and Disputes Settlement in the World Trade Organisation, Journal of International Economic Law, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2004, 449-457. 12 See Chorzow Factories, 1929 P.C.I.J. Series A, No. 8, 4 at [21]. See also Mavroidis, supra, footnote 8; and the International Law Commission's Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States far Internationally Wrongful Acts, adopted by the Commission at its fifty-third session, held in 2001 (Chapter u "Reparation for Injury"); available at: . The WTO Panel in Australia-Autornotive Leather II, supra, footnote 1, concluded that the system provides for retrospective remedies, a decision which, although the subject of intense criticism (see Gavin Goh and Andreas R. Ziegler, Retrospective Remedies in the WTO After Automotive Leather, J.LE.L., Vol. 6, No. 3, 2003, 545-564), has also found support (see Mavroidis, supra, footnote 8, at 790). United States-Standards for Reformulated and Conventional Gasoline, Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS2/AB/R, adopted 20 May 1996, at 17. 34 Cannody, supra, footnote 10, at 328. 35 Mavroidis, supra, footnote 8, at 790 and 807; and Marco Bronckers and Naboth van den Brock, Financial Compensation in the W't'o: Improving Remedies of WTO Dispute Settlement, J.I.E.L., Vol. 8, No. 1, 2005, 101-12G, at 103. This leads to "buy outs" by powerful Members; see Consultative Board Report, supra, footnote 2, at 54. 36 See the views expressed by Malaysia, India and Thailand during a Special Session of the Dispute Settlement Body in January 2004. The minutes of that meeting (W ro Doc. TN/DS/M/15) are available at: supra, footnote 2, at 54.

  • 37 Dsu, Article 22. 3� Consultative Board Report, supra, footnote 2, at 54. 3" See Bronckers and van den Broek, supra, footnote 35, at 104; and James McCall Smith, WTO Dispute Settlement: The Politia of Procedure in Appellate Body Rulings, World Trade Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2003, 65-100, at 76. 4IJ See Kylie Bagwell, Petros C. Mavroidis and Robert W. Staiger, The Case for Tradable Remedies in W1'o Dispute Settlement, Tables 1 to 4; available at: . 41 Nzclibc, supra, footnote 10, at 2-3. 4= See Donald McRae, What is the Fufure ofWTO Dispute Settlement? Journal of International Economic Law, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2004, 3-21, at 11. ;3 United States-Definitive Safeguard Measures on Imports of Certain Steel Products, Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS248/AB/R, adopted 10 December 2003.

  • ;a Joost Pauwelyn, W'ro Victory on Strel Hides Deficiencies; available at: �www.jurist.law.pitt.edu/forum/ Pauwelynl.php#4�. The U.S. Administration also gained much-needed support from the steel lobby in matters such as fast-track authority from Congress to assist in concluding other trade agreements (such as the Central America Free Trade Agreement). �s United States-Safeguard Measures on Imports of Fresh, Chilled or Frozen Lamb Meat from New 7ealatid and Australia, Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS177/AB/R and WT/DS178/AB/R, adopted 16 May 2001. 4� European Cornmunities-Regime for the Importation, Sale and Distribution o_f Bananas (EC-Ballmras 1II), Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS27/AB/R, adopted 25 September 1997. 47 See Nzelibe, supra, footnote 10, at 11-13, 26-28 and 34.

  • 4<EuropeanCOInllllllÚties-RegilllefortheImportation,SaleanrlDistributionof Banmlas-Rec"IIrsetoArbitrationbytheEuropeanCommunitiesunderArticle22.6 oftHeDSL', Report of the Panel, W'I'/DS27/ARn/Ecu, circulated 24 March 2000, at para. 177. 11 Liz Harper, Cfrnllenyes for Poorer Nations at the W't'o, September 2003� available at: `www.pbs.org/ ncwshour/bb/international/wto/case_study.htnih. 5o Nzelibe, supra, footnote 10, at 28. Nzelibc also suggests at 26-27 that the Ecuadorian experience may not be indicative of how other developing countries may react when faced with these circumstances, as they could have "relatively strong protectionist audiences" making "retaliation a politically desirable option". However, that, with respect, does not overcome the market-power hurdle. 31 Namely, whether a "compliance panel" must first review any implementation measures taken as a precondition to seeking authorization for retaliation, which the EU favours-with the ambiguity not there if no implementation attempt has been made. 52 The sequencing issue was first evident in EC-Bananas Ill, supra, footnote 46. The banana dispute was less about bananas and more about the efficacy of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism and its ability to quickly and fairly settle complex disputes; see Michelle M. Mulvena, Has Tlre UVTO Gone Bananas? Holi' the Banana Dispute has tested the W1o Dispute Settlement Mechanism; available at: �www.iicsi.edu/iiitljoiinial/vol7/vol72001 _pgl 77.pdf,. 3.1 Notable bilateral agreements have been achieved between: (1) the United States and Malaysia in United States-Import Prohibition qf Certain Shrimp and Shrimp Products (U.S.— Shrimp), WT/DS58; see Understanding between Malaysia and the United States Regarding Possible Proceedings under Articles 21 and 22 of the Dsu, WTO Doc. WT/DS58/16, available at: ; (2) Canada and Brazil in Canada--Measllres A1fectill<� the Export of Cii'ilian Aircraft (ClIlada-Aircra/Ï), WT/DS70; see WTO Doc. WT/DS70/9, available at: U.S.-P.S.C., supra, footnote 29; see the Understanding between the European Communities and the United States Regarding Procedures under Articles 21 and 22 of the Dsu and Article 4 of the Sc:n�t Agreement, WTO Doc. W1'/DS108/12, available at: .docsonlme.wto.org/nDFDocuments/t/W T/DS/108-12.doc; (4) Australia and Canada in Australia-Measures A(�ecting Illlportatioll of Salmon, WT/DS18; and (5) the EC and India in European COlllllnlllities-Allti-Dulllping Duties Oll Iniports of Cotton-type Berl LillW'/yOIll India, WT/DS141.

  • 34 Consultative Board Report, supra, footnote 2, at 53. The Balas Text also addresses sequencing (see Balas Text, infm, footnote 100). e5 The United States did not favour sequencing before U.S.-F.S.C., supra, footnote 29. Rather, it pressed for strengthening the enforcement regime of the W'l'o's dispute settlement procedures, favouring immediate retaliation and then "carousel retaliation" (via its Carousel Retaliation Act of 1999, designed to periodically rotate the list of products subject to retaliation to maximize their retaliatory effect). It did this on the back of victory in several high profile cases: EC-HoYll/ol/es, infra, footnote 75; E(.'-L3arranas ur, supra, footnote 46; C<1II<1d,¡-Periodicals, W'I'/DS31; and India-C'ntenn (U.S.), WT/DS50. Its position on sequencing changed following its defeat in US.-F.S.c., mmoured to be in exchange for backing down on carousel retaliation, although the legislative provisions remain. See Zinunerman, supra, footnote 2, at 41-44. The Balas Text (infra, footnote 100) does not contemplate the exclusion of carousel retaliation; see Heinz Hauser and Thomas A. Zimmenman, Tlre Challenge of R�/(>rl/lil1g she WTo Dispute Settlement Understanding, Intereconomics-Review of European Economic Policy, Vol. 38, No. 5, September/October 2003, 241-245, at 242. 56 Davey, supra, footnote 4, at 49. Delays are further compounded by the AB hearing compliance appeals, even though it is not specifically authorized to do so. There is merit in discontinuing this practice, especially if panels have a greater degree of pennanency. 5� Hudcc, supra, footnote 29, at 27. Ss Consultative Board Report, supra, footnote 2, at 54. 51 See Balas Text (� footnote 100) regarding the proposed amendment to Article 22 of the Dsu.

  • I" See Dsu, Articles 4.10, 8.10, 12.11, 21.2, 21.7 and 21.8. 11 See the Website of the Advisory Centre on WTO Law, at: . 12 United States-Transitional Safeguards Measure on Comberl Cotton Yam from Pakistan, Report of the Appellate Body,WT/DS192/AB/R, adopted 5 November 2001. 63 India-Anti-Dumping Measure on Batteries from Bangladesh, WT/DS306. No panel has been established nor settlement notified in relation to this dispute. 64 Hudec, supra, footnote 29, at 27. fi' Mary E. Footer, Developing Country Practice in the Matter of WTO Dispute Settlement, 35 J.W.T. 1, Febniary 2001, 55-98, at 65. fifi The trade remedies area is generally considered to embrace the WTO Agreements on Anti-Dumping Measures, Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, Safeguards and Rules of Origin, where the importing Member is permitted to impose discriminatory measures after certain procedures are observed, but these are prone to self- interest for protectionist or political purposes. Disputes arising under these Agreements have accounted for 53 per cent of cases decided under the WTO's dispute settlement system over the last four or five years. See Consultative Board Report, supra, footnote 2, at 55-56; and Carmody, supra, footnote 10, at 320-321.

  • 67 McRae, supra, footnote 42, at 16. 6H Id. 69 Id. See generally Pauwelyn, supra, footnote 44. Interestingly, the Government Accountability Office, an independent and nonpartisan organization, commonly known as the U.S. Congress' investigative arm or Congressional watchdog, states on its Website that "of the legal experts GAO consulted, a majority concluded that the WTO has properly applied standards of review and correctly ruled on major trade remedy issues" and that "the experts almost unanimously agreed that the WTO was not treating the United States any differently than other members": . Others have suggested that the "AB has not articulated any coherent doctrine as to when they may be allowable": Alan O. Sykes, T7ie Safeguards Mess: A Critique of WTO Jurisprudeuœ; available at: supra, footnote 42, at 16. 71 Consultative Board Report, supra, footnote 2, at 55-56. '2 Ibid., at 54-55.

  • '3UnitedStates-ContinuedDumpingandSubsidyOffsetActof2000(U.S.-O�(jsetAct(ByrdAmendment)), WT/DS217 and WT/DS234. " United States-Anti-Dumping Act of 1916, WT/DS136; and United States-Anti-Dumping Act of 1916 (Japan), WT/DS162. 75 European Communities-Measures Concerning Meat and Meat Produces (Hormones) (EC-Honnones), WT/DS26; and European Communities-Measures Concerning Meat and Meat Products (Hormones) (Canada), WT/DS48. '6 Brazil-Export Financing Programme for Aircraft, WT/DS46; and Canada-Airaaft, WT/DS70. " U.S.-F.S.C, Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS108/AB/R, adopted 20 March 2000; and United States-Tax Treatmetitfor Foreign Sales Corporation-Recourse to Article 21.5 of the Dsu by the European Communities, Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS108/AB/RW, adopted 29 January 2002. �a U.S.-Offset Act (Byrd Amendment), Report ofthe Appellate Body, WT/DS217/AB/R and WT/DS234/AB/R, adopted 27 January 2003. 79 Centre For Trade Policy Studies, WTO Authorizes Retaliation against Byrd Amendment but Renewed Commitment to the Rules, not Sanctions, is Needed, 31 August 2004; available at: . KO EC-Hormones, Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS26/AB/R and WT/DS48/AB/R, adopted 13 February 1998.

  • "'UnitedStates&Canada-ContinuedSuspensionofObligationsintheEC-HormollesDispute, WT/DS320 and WT/DS321. ez WTO, Registration Begins for Public Hearings of "Continued suspension ofobligations in the EC-horm"'les" Dispute Panels 12-15 September 2005 in Geneva, 12 August 2005; available at: . 11 See McRae, supra, footnote 42, at 10-14, and 17-18; compare with McCall Smith, supra, footnote 39, at 88. 84 McRae, ibid., at 11. 85 See Consultative Board Report, supra, footnote 2, at 58. sb Ibid. (the Consultative Board also favours more transparency); and McRae, supra, footnote 42, at 10-12 and 16-18. 87 Zimmerman, supra, footnote 2, at 42—43. Also, the United States failed to have increased transparency included in the Balas Text (see infra, footnote 100).

  • 88 McRae, supra, footnote 42, at 17. N9 U.S.-Shrimp, Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS58/AB/R, adopted 6 November 1998, paras. 105-108. 9o European Communities-Measures Affecting Asbestos and Asbestos-Containing Products, Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS135/AB/R, adopted 5 April 2001, paras. 52-58. '11 See McRae, supra, footnote 42, at 12; and Petros C. Mavroidis, Amicus Curiae Briefs Before the W7'o: Much Ado About Nothing, at 9-10; available at: supra, footnote 2, at 57-58. y3 Ibid., at 53. �^ See Mary Footer and Saman Zia-Zarifi, Case Note: European Communities-Measures Affecting Asbestos and Asbestos-Containing Products, p. 142; available at:

  • 95 Enropean Cummunities-Measnres Afl�ctii�q the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products, WT/DS291, WT/DS292 and WT/DS293. There are suggestions that the EC has caved in to some extent and relaxed its moratorium. 11 Dsu, Articles 4, 5 and 25. y� Steve Chamovitz, WHJ Dispute Settlement as a Model for Internatiorml GOf'ema//œ; available at: supra, footnote 42, at 9-10. W Consultative Board Report, supra, footnote 2, at 57.

  • 100 One hopes that the Special Session of the W ro's Dispute Settlement Body reaches some meaningful consensus on reform. The Session has a useful starting point in the Balas Text, the compromise text prepared by its Chairman, Ambassador Peter Balas, which has been supplemented with the views expressed by the WTO's Consultative Board; see Woo Doc. TN/DS/9. 101 The AB has been conscious of the need to guard against claims ofjudicial activism. See, for instance, Goh and Ziegler, supra, footnote 32, at 563; and United States-Import Measures on Certaill Products from the European Communities, Report of the Appellate Body, WT/DS65/AB/R, adopted 10 January 2001, para. 92. 102 See, for instance, those favouring comprehensive reform (Bronckers and van den Broek, supra, footnote 35; and Hudec, suyra, footnote 29) and those against (Carniody, supra, footnote 10; and Nzelibe, suyra, footnote 10).

  • tos Davey, supra, footnote 4, at 25; John H. Jackson, The Role and Effectiveness of the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism, p. 204; available at: supra, footnote 2, at 38-40 and 52-53. See also Claus-Dieter Ehlermann, Tensions between the Dispute Settlement Process and the Diplomatic and Treaty Makinq Activities of the WTO, World Trade Review, Vol. 1, No. 3, 2002, 301-308. This was also recognized by three former Directors-General of the GATT/WTO (Messrs Dunkel, Sutherland and Ruggiero), who issued ajoint statement in February 2001 relevantly stating: "Our concern is that the dispute settlement system is being used as a means of filling out gaps in the WTO system; first, where rules and disciplines have not been put in place by its member governments or, second, are the subject of differences of interpretation. In other words, there is an excessive resort to litigation as a substitute for negotiation. This trend is dangerous in itself. The obligations which WTO members assume are properly for the member governments themselves to negotiate. The issue is still more concerning given certain public perceptions that the process of dispute settlement in the WTO is over-secret and over-powerful. We believe that all WTO members but the EU and US in particular-must exercise the utmost restraint in their recourse to the dispute settlement system. Litigation in trade matters is not, and must not become, an automatic alternative to negotiation." See WTO, joint Statement on the Multilateral Trading System; available at: supra, footnote 2, at 54-57).

  • 107 There are presently 170 regional trade agreements in force, with this expected to rise to 300 by the end of 2005; see the W ro's Website, at: (note that as of 15 February 2006, this information on the Website had not been updated). By way of example, the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force on 1 January 2005, has its own dispute resolution regime (see Chapter 2, Section 13 "Dispute Settlement Proceedings"). Relevantly, where a dispute concerning any matter arises under the FTA and another trade agrecment to which both Parties are party, including the WTO Agreement, and the complainant opts for the FTA's regime, it will be precluded from having recourse to the WTO system (Australia-United States FTA, Article 21.4). 108 William Davey, Supporting the Wro Dispute Settlement System, 34 J.W.T. 1, February 2000, 167-170, at 167. 10. Consultative Board Report, supra, footnote 2, at 81-83. See also Jackson, supra, footnote 103, at 206-207. 110 Consultative Board Report, ibid., at 49. 111 Jackson, supra, footnote 103, at 200-201. The Consultative Board suggests that an "impartial special expert group" of the DSB can do this; see their Report, ibid., at 56.

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