Tuesday, May 7, 2013

FiT ruling, government purchase and some interesting findings

The much awaited Canada FiT Appellate Body report is out. For those interested in a  quick look at the findings, here it is. The detailed 145 page decision for those die hard WTO fans is here. The IELP blog bringing out the aspect of the domestic policy space available for countries to implement renewable energy schemes had this initial reaction.

The implications of the decision for FiT programs based on local content requirements worldwide is important. One would also wait and see how the province of Ontario and Canada would respond in terms of compliance.

My initial reading of the summary and quick read of the decision indicates:

1. The mandatory local content requirements violate Article III:4 GATT and Article 2.1 of TRIMS.

2. They are not saved by the government procurement exception in Article III:8 GATT exception since there is no governmental purchase of renewable energy equipment. perhaps the striking feature of this decision is the distinction made between the electricity produced and the renewable energy equipment. The link that the Panel had found was over ruled.
"5.79. We have found above that the conditions for derogation under Article III:8(a) must be understood in relation to the obligations stipulated in the other paragraphs of Article III. This means that the product of foreign origin allegedly being discriminated against must be in a competitive relationship with the product purchased. In the case before us, the product being procured is electricity, whereas the product discriminated against for reason of its origin is generation equipment. These two products are not in a competitive relationship. None of the participants has suggested otherwise, much less offered evidence to substantiate such proposition. Accordingly, the discrimination relating to generation equipment contained in the FIT Programme and Contracts is not covered by the derogation of Article III:8(a) of the GATT 1994.530 We therefore reverse the Panel's findings, in paragraphs 7.127, 7.128, and 7.152 of the Panel Reports, that the Minimum Required Domestic Content Levels of the FIT Programme and related FIT and microFIT Contracts are laws, regulations, or requirements governing the procurement by governmental agencies of electricity within the meaning of Article III:8(a) of the GATT 1994. Instead, we find that the Minimum Required Domestic Content Levels cannot be characterized as "laws, regulations or requirements governing the procurement by governmental agencies" of electricity within the meaning of Article III:8(a) of the GATT 1994."
3. The Appellate Body did not come to the conclusion that the measure was a prohibited subsidy under Article 3.1 (b) of the ASCM.

Hence, though the program mandating local content was found to be in violation of GATT provisions it was not held to be a prohibited subsidy under the ASCM.

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