Sunday, April 29, 2012

US dominated disputes!

The Dispute Settlement Body met this week  and considered three matters, all related to the US. The WTO website  reported about the meeting . The International Law Prof Blog  also has referred to this US focus of the DSB meeting. The three matters were:

1. Adoption of the Cloves Cigarettes  Panel and Appellate Body Reports - The measures the US would take in terms of compliance is still awaited. Would it modify its legislation, maintain status quo and argue that changed circumstances signify compliance or allow retaliation?

2. US — Measures Affecting the Cross Border Supply of Gambling and Betting Services  - The US argued that it had sought amendments to its GATS commitments and had also offered compensation to Antigua.

3. US — Anti-Dumping Administrative Reviews and Other Measures Related to Imports of Certain Orange Juice from Brazil - The US said that by abandoning the zeroing methodology it had sbstantialy complied with the order.

I am not going into the details of each of these cases. Just wanted to highlight some thoughts on reading the meeting proceedings:

a. While the Cloves case is yet to reach the compliance stage, the other two cases indicate the US' compliance by bringing the its domestic measure in compliance in one case (Orange Juice case) and by seeking to modify its international commitments under GATS n the other (Gambling case).

b. The three disputes again highlight the significance of the DSM wherein countries of differing economic and trading power can seek remedy under the WTO against a powerful, trading partner. In all three cases, the US was at the receiving end of the decision. For some it would highlight the "neutrality" of a rule based system as compared to a power based, negotiation led model. There are still those who argue that compliance and impact of the decisions would be determined by the comparative trading strengths of the countries. Nevertheless, the fact that a country irrespective of its trading, political and economic strength can take the US to a dispute forum is in itself a sign of an egalitarian system.

c. I found Antigua's written submission at the DSB in the Gambling case:
 "It was thus time, according to Antigua and Barbuda, for the US to do what it asks of others — to observe its international obligations in good faith and with due consideration for the rights and legal status of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda informed the DSB that it had formally notified the US of its desire to seek recourse to the good offices of the DG in finding a mediated solution to this dispute."
Does this statement indicate a "credibility" pressure for countries to comply with Panel/AB decisions? While a country seeks compliance from others, its credibility is at stake when it is on the other side.

On the whole, a US "dominated" DSB week!

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