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UNDERSTANDING THE WTO: SETTLING DISPUTES
Case study: the timetable in practice

On 23 January 1995, Venezuela complained to the Dispute Settlement Body that the United States was applying rules that discriminated against gasoline imports, and formally requested consultations with the United States. Just over a year later (on 29 January 1996) the dispute panel completed its final report. (By then, Brazil had joined the case, lodging its own complaint in April 1996. The same panel considered both complaints.) The United States appealed. The Appellate Body completed its report, and the Dispute Settlement Body adopted the report on 20 May 1996, one year and four months after the complaint was first lodged.

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The United States and Venezuela then took six and a half months to agree on what the United States should do. The agreed period for implementing the solution was 15 months from the date the appeal was concluded (20 May 1996 to 20 August 1997).

The case arose because the United States applied stricter rules on the chemical characteristics of imported gasoline than it did for domestically-refined gasoline. Venezuela (and later Brazil) said this was unfair because US gasoline did not have to meet the same standards — it violated the “national treatment” principle and could not be justified under exceptions to normal WTO rules for health and environmental conservation measures. The dispute panel agreed with Venezuela and Brazil. The appeal report upheld the panel’s conclusions (making some changes to the panel’s legal interpretation). The United States agreed with Venezuela that it would amend its regulations within 15 months and on 26 August 1997 it reported to the Dispute Settlement Body that a new regulation had been signed on 19 August.

 

Time
(0 = start of case)

Target/ actual period

Date

Action

-5 years

 

1990

US Clean Air Act amended

-4 months

 

September 1994

US restricts gasoline imports under Clean Air Act

0

60 days”

23 January 1995

Venezuela complains to Dispute Settlement Body, asks for consultation with US

+1 month

24 February 1995

Consultations take place. Fail.

+2 months

25 March 1995

Venezuela asks Dispute Settlement Body for a panel

+2½ months

30 days”

10 April 1995

Dispute Settlement Body agrees to appoint panel. US does not block. (Brazil starts complaint, requests consultation with US.)

+3 months

 

28 April 1995

Panel appointed. (31 May, panel assigned to Brazilian complaint as well)

+6 months

9 months (target is 6-9)

10-12 July and 13-15 July 1995

Panel meets

+11 months

 

11 December 1995

Panel gives interim report to US, Venezuela and Brazil for comment

+1 year

 

29 January 1996

Panel circulates final report to members

+1 year, 1 month

 

21 February 1996

US appeals

+1 year, 3 months

“60 days”

29 April 1996

Appellate Body submits report

+1 year, 4 months

“30 days”

20 May 1996

Dispute Settlement Body adopts panel and appeal reports

+1 year, 10½ months

 

3 December 1996

US and Venezuela agree on what US should do (implementation period is 15 months from 20 May)

+1 year, 11½ months

 

9 January 1997

US makes first of monthly reports to Dispute Settlement Body on status of implementation

+2 years, 7 months

 

19-20 August 1997

US signs new regulation (19th). End of agreed implementation period (20th)

more on dispute settlement


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