WTO Corner blog, WTO crisis and reform

WTO Corner: The Void

So it looks like after the EU created a precedent, we will have a second WTO member considering retaliation against members ruling into the void….By Iana Dreyer and Chris Horseman.

India appeals sugar subsidies case ‘into the void’

To no-one’s surprise, India has appealed against a WTO dispute settlement panel ruling which found it guilty of breaching WTO rules on notifying agricultural subsidies.

The appeal was notified to WTO members on Tuesday (11 January).

Given that there is currently no Appellate Body in place at the WTO – and as India is not party to the Multiparty Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement – the appeal will join a growing number of other pending cases in ‘the void’.

The initial ruling, published on 13 December last year, made WTO history by being the first time a member had been found guilty of breaching its subsidy notification obligations under the organisation’s Agreement on Agriculture.

The panel had ruled that a system of mandatory minimum purchase prices for sugarcane operated by the Indian government amounted to a domestic support scheme, and should have been notified to the WTO as such.

India claimed that the panel had made a number of errors of law in reaching its verdict.

Brazil considers EU-style retaliation for WTO members that rule into the void

Only days after India made its announcement, Brazil, who filed the case against India alongside Australia and Guatemala, was reported considering introducing legislation that would allow it to introduce retaliatory tariffs against countries blocking the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement proceedings and whose panel reports at first stage ruled in favour of Brazil.

In taking such a step, the South American commodities export giant would follow into the footsteps of the EU, which recently introduced legislation to that end.

The news was broken by the Brazilian magazine Valor Economico today.

Brazil is one of the founding signatories of the alternative appeals mechanism devised by a small group WTO members, the MPIA to seek to offset the demise of the Appellate Body. While big trading powers such as China – and the EU – are part of it, India has not signed up to the mechanism.

USTR Tai remains elusive on Appellate Body restoration issue

Speaking at an event hosted by the Irish think tank IIEA on Wednesday, USTR Katherine Tai proved yet again her usual self: superficially engaging, in practice advancing on nothing. So those who hoped to have more clues as to US policy vis-à-vis the WTO will be disappointed by what she said:

“On dispute settlement, … I think that we need to come back to first principles … . I know there’s a lot of focus on the Appellate Body, and I completely understand why it’s there on the Appellate Body and why it’s there on us. But I want to expand the conversation to say that, … as the WTO needs to be reformed to be responsive, so too does its dispute settlement function need to evolve as part of the institution, and I’ll just say a couple words here. We are really excited — we have started engaging with our partners — we’re really excited to bring a vision and to engage our vision with the visions and interests of all of the WTO members around … what it is a dispute settlement function should provide.

We think most fundamentally it should facilitate the settlement of disputes between members. Second, I think that fundamentally as an institutional matter, it should reinforce and facilitate the functioning of the other aspects of the WTO, the negotiating function and also the monitoring function at the WTO, as opposed to stifling them. And third, when we talk about dispute settlement, let’s … ground it in the settlement of disputes and separate it out from the litigation aspect, which is only one method of settling disputes.”

So, in a week where members also held an informal General Council meeting requested by India to discuss holding a potential meeting on the issue of negotiating a TRIPS waiver for COVID-related medical products to then say “no”, we can safely state that so far this week all been about of The Void on avenue de Lausanne….

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