Australia and WTO dispute settlement

Monthly Bulletin
June 2006

In this issue


Australia as a Complainant

There are no current disputes at panel or appellate body phase in which Australia is a complainant

Australia as a Respondent

Australia: Certain Measures Affecting the Importation of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables (WT/DS270)

No new developments.  A panel was established in August 2003 at the request of the Philippines but has not yet been composed.

Australia: Certain Measures Affecting the Importation of Fresh Pineapple Fruit (WT/DS/271)

No new developments.  Consultations were held in November 2002 at the request of the Philippines, but no panel has been established.

Australia: Quarantine Regime for Imports (WT/DS287)

No new developments. A panel was established in November 2003 at the request of the European Communities but has not yet been composed.

Australia as a Third Party: Selected Disputes

Turkey:  Measures Affecting the importation of rice (WT/DS334)

A panel was established on 17 March, at the United States' request, to examine the United States' complaint about Turkey's import restrictions on rice. The complaint concerns Turkey's rice import licensing arrangements and import quota system which require importers to purchase specified quantities of domestic rice in order to be permitted to import rice under tariff-rate quotas.

Australia, China, the European Communities, Korea, Thailand, Argentina and Egypt have reserved their rights to participate as third parties to this dispute.

European Communities:  Measures Affecting the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products (WT/DS291, 292 and 293)

We understand that the panel's confidential final report has been circulated to parties. Australia, as a third party, will only be formally notified of the panel's findings when the final report is circulated to all WTO Members, which is expected by the end of September 2006.

United States/Canada: Continued Suspension of Obligations in the EC Hormones Dispute (WT/DS320 and WT/DS321)

Panels - established at the February 2005 DSB meeting at the request of the European Communities (EC) - continue to consider these two separate but related disputes.  On 20 January 2006, the Chairman of the panels informed the DSB that due to the complexity of the dispute and the matters involved, the panels would not be able to complete their work within 6 months. Based on this, we do not expect the final reports to be circulated to all WTO members until late 2006. 

In September 2005, parts of the panels' proceedings were open to observation by other WTO Members and the public, at the request of the parties to the dispute.  This was the first time that proceedings of a WTO panel have been open to the public.  The session for third party submissions to the panel remained closed, however, based on objections by some third parties.

The disputes relate to the WTO-consistency of the continued retaliation by the United States and Canada, despite EC claims of compliance with the findings in the European Communities - Hormones disputes.  Australia is a third party to both disputes.

European Communities: Selected Customs Matters (WT/DS315)

The Panel's report was circulated on 16 June.  This dispute was brought by the United States (US) against two alleged elements of the European Communities' (EC's) administration of its customs laws: the lack of uniform administration of the EC's laws, and the lack of an EC tribunal or other procedure for the prompt review and correction of customs administrative actions whose decisions apply throughout the EC.  Australia participated as a third party in the dispute given our systemic interest in the issues raised.  

The panel found its terms of reference prevented it from considering US challenges to the design and structure of the EC's system as a whole.  The panel nevertheless described the EC customs system as complicated, opaque and confusing. 

The panel rejected most of the specific US complaints related to:

The Panel upheld three US claims, finding that:

Neither the US or EC has to date indicated an intention to appeal the Panel's decision.

See: The Panel's report on the WTO website at:  http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds315_e.htm

See: Australia's oral statement on the DFAT website at:
http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/disputes/wto_disputes-3rd_party_table.html

Other third parties in the dispute were Argentina, Brazil, China, Hong Kong - China, India, Japan, Korea, and Chinese Taipei.

European Communities and Certain Member States/United States:  Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft (WT/DS316 and WT/DS317)

There have been no further developments in either of these disputes since the DSB Meeting held on 17 May. The Panel has agreed to the parties' request to set aside the timetable for these disputes. At this stage, this issue is suspended from consideration by the DSB.

Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan and Korea are third parties to both disputes.

Brazil - Measures Affecting Imports of Retreaded Tyres (WT/DS332)

A panel was established in January 2006 at the request of the European Communities, to examine the WTO-consistency of Brazilian measures relating to the import of retreaded tyres.  Brazil has indicated that it will seek to justify the measures on environmental and health grounds pursuant to GATT Article XX.  Australia has reserved its right to participate as a third party in this dispute, as have Argentina, Japan, Korea, the United States, China, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Chinese Taipei and Thailand.

Chile - Price Band System and Safeguard Measures Relating to Certain Agricultural Products -Recourse to Article 21.5 (WT/DS207)

A panel was established in January 2006 at the request of Argentina to examine the WTO-consistency of Chilean price band mechanisms applying to certain agricultural products, which replaced mechanisms found previously to be WTO-inconsistent. On 9 June the Chairman of the Panel informed the DSB that due to the time required to translate submissions, the Panel would not be able to complete its work within the 90 day period envisaged by Article 21.5 of the DSU. The Panel is expected to complete its work by late 2006.

Australia has reserved its right to participate as a third party in this dispute, following participation as a third party at the original panel and Appellate Body stages of the dispute. Columbia, the European Communities, the United States, China, Brazil, Peru, Canada and Thailand also reserved their third party rights.

Meetings of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB)

DSB Regular Meeting - 19 June 2006
At the DSB regular meeting on 19 June, the European Communities (EC) repeated its claim that its new sugar regime had brought it into compliance with the Appellate Body ruling in European Communities - Export Subsidies on Sugar. The EC claimed that its reforms would reduce sugar exports by 5 million tonnes. Australia, Brazil and Thailand contested the EC's claims of compliance, pointing out that the EC's measures were forecast to result in subsidised sugar exports of 7 million tonnes in excess of the EC's quantity commitments. This had cost Australia an estimated $200 million.

The DSB adopted Draft Decisions relating to the procedural Understanding concluded between the EC and Australia, Brazil and Thailand in the EC Sugar dispute. The Understanding protects the three complainants' procedural right to invoke retaliation provisions in the event of a compliance panel finding that the EC had failed to implement the Appellate Body recommendations in this matter.

Next DSB Meetings
A regular DSB meeting was scheduled for 19 July 2006.

WTO Dispute Settlement: Developments of Interest

The following reports were circulated recently, and are available on the WTO website

European Communities - Selected Customs Matters (WT/DS315/R), Panel report, circulated 16 June 2006.

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