This summary has been prepared by the WTO Secretariat’s Information and External Relations Division to help public understanding about developments in WTO disputes. It is not a legal interpretation of the issues, and it is not intended as a complete account of the issues. These can be found in the reports themselves and in the minutes of the Dispute Settlement Body’s meetings.
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DS543: United States — Tariff Measures on Certain Goods from China
China submitted its second request for the establishment of a WTO panel to rule on tariffs imposed by the United States on imports of Chinese goods under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974; China's first request was blocked by the US at a DSB meeting on 18 December 2018. The tariffs were imposed on the basis of an investigation by the Office of the US Trade Representative concerning alleged acts, policies and practices by China related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation.
China said it was making its second request due to the urgency of this dispute, which continues to damage China's legitimate economic and trade interests as well as the rules-based multilateral trading system. The unilateral US actions not only infringe China's rights but also flagrantly violate various WTO rules and fundamental principles of the WTO; if the US were free to continue infringing these principles without consequences, the future viability of this organization is in dire peril, China said. Regarding the Section 301 investigation, China said the findings are a willful distortion of facts and full of selective assertions and allegations.
The United States said China was doing great damage to the international trading system through its unfair and trade-distorting forced technology transfer policies and practices. China is seeking to use the dispute settlement system as a shield for a broad range of trade-distorting policies and practices not covered by WTO rules, threatening the overall viability of the WTO system. In addition, China's request is hypocritical; it is currently retaliating against the US by imposing duties on over $100 billion in US trade.
Finally, the United States said, the outcome of any dispute proceedings would be pointless; China has already taken the unilateral decision that the US measures cannot be justified and is already imposing tariffs on US goods. China's second request for a panel shows it is not serious about addressing the legitimate concerns of its trading partners, the US said.
The DSB agreed to establish the panel. The European Union, Japan, Norway, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Russia, Chinese Taipei, Ukraine, Indonesia, India, Kazakhstan, Korea and Brazil reserved their third-party rights to participate in the proceedings.
DS561: Turkey — Additional Duties on Certain Products from the United States
The United States submitted its second request for a panel to examine Turkey's additional duties imposed on certain products imported from the US, following Turkey's blocking of the first US request at a DSB meeting on 11 January. The duties were imposed in response to US duties levied on imports of steel and aluminium starting in early 2018.
The United States said its steel and aluminium duties address a threat to its national security and are therefore fully justified under Article XXI of the GATT. Turkey and other WTO members that have imposed similar measures on US imports are pretending that the US actions are so-called safeguards and further pretending that their unilateral, retaliatory duties constitute suspension of substantially equivalent concessions under the WTO's Safeguards Agreement, the US said; just as these members appear ready to undermine the dispute settlement system by throwing out the plain meaning of Article XXI and 70 years of practice, so too are they ready to undermine the WTO by pretending to follow WTO rules while taking measures blatantly against those rules.
Turkey reiterated that the real reason members find themselves in this situation today is not because of the Turkish action but because of the unwarranted and unjustified unilateral US action, which was intended to protect US producers from the competitive effects of imports. The US is pretending that its action is based on national security concerns when their very nature and purpose show that they are safeguard measures. Turkey said it was confident it would prevail in the dispute.
The European Union said the number of panels now established in regards to the US steel and aluminium tariffs is testimony to the strength of the opposition which the US measures have generated worldwide. The EU said it was confident these disputes will demonstrate the rules-based system is good and strong enough not to allow this abuse of Article XXI of the GATT and will affirm the right of members to resort to the suspension of concessions when a safeguard measure has actually been taken.
The DSB agreed to establish the panel. The EU, Japan, Canada, Ukraine, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Mexico, Russia, Norway, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, Venezuela, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Brazil, China and India reserved their third-party rights to participate in the proceedings.
Brazil told the DSB that it fully intends to implement the recommendations and rulings of the DSB in these disputes in compliance with Brazil's WTO obligations, but that it was impracticable to comply immediately. Thus, Brazil will need a reasonable period of time for implementation.
The European Union and Japan both said that they expected Brazil to ensure prompt and full compliance with the rulings and were ready to discuss with Brazil the time period needed to ensure this result.
DS234: United States – Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act of 2000
The European Union reiterated its request that the United States cease transferring anti-dumping and countervailing duties to the US domestic industry, arguing that every such disbursement was a clear act of non-compliance with the rulings on this matter. Brazil and Canada agreed with the EU that the matter should remain on the DSB agenda and called on the US to fully comply. The United States referred to its previous statement and said it had taken all action necessary to comply.
DS316: European Communities and Certain Member States – Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft: Implementations of the recommendations adopted by the DSB
The United States again said the European Union has not provided a status report concerning dispute DS316. The EU has argued that Article 21.6 of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) requires that the issue of implementation remain on the DSB agenda until the issue is resolved and that where a member disagrees with another member's assertion that implementation of a ruling has been achieved, the issue remains unresolved for the purposes of Article 21.6. The stated EU position contradicts its actions in this dispute, the US said, where the EU has admitted that there remains a disagreement on compliance. Under the EU's own view, the EU should be providing a status report, yet it has failed to do so.
The European Union said there was a difference between the position it has taken in DS234 and DS316. In the former, the case has been adjudicated, no proceedings are pending, and the EU disagrees with the US assertion that it has complied; thus, the issue remains unresolved for the purposes of Article 21.6. In the DS316 case, the EU notified its compliance measures, the US disagreed that compliance had been achieved and a compliance panel has been established to rule on the matter. The matter is subject to litigation and the EU is concerned with a reading of Article 21.6 which would require a member to notify the status of implementation while litigation is ongoing.
Appellate Body appointments
Mexico, speaking on behalf of 71 WTO members, once again introduced the group's proposal calling for the establishment of a selection committee for the appointment of new Appellate Body members, the submission of candidates within 30 days, and the issuance by the committee of recommendations within 60 days.
Four vacancies now exist on the Appellate Body, which normally has seven members, with two more members due to depart at the end of the year. The considerable number of members supporting the proposal reflects a common concern with the current situation in the Appellate Body that is seriously affecting its workings and the overall dispute settlement system against the best interest of its members, Mexico said.
The United States again said it was not in a position to agree to the proposal. As explained in previous meetings, the US said the systemic concerns it has identified remain unaddressed; for more than 15 years, the US has been raising serious concerns with the Appellate Body's disregard for the rules set by WTO members. The 2018 US Trade Policy Agenda outlined several longstanding US concerns, including appellate rulings that go far beyond the text setting out WTO rules in areas such as trade remedies, standards and technical barriers to trade, restricting the ability of the US to regulate in the public interest or protect US workers and businesses against unfair trading practices. And for more than a year the US has been calling on WTO members to correct the situation where the Appellate Body acts as if it has the power to permit ex-Appellate Body members to continue to decide appeals even after their terms of office have expired. The US will continue to insist that WTO rules be followed by the WTO dispute settlement system.
Sixteen members, speaking on their own behalf or on behalf of groups, made statements. They reiterated their concerns with the continued impasse regarding the appointment of new Appellate Body members and urged all members to show flexibility in order to resolve the deadlock as soon as possible. Several welcomed the informal process launched by the General Council chair to overcome the impasse and the appointment of New Zealand's Ambassador David Walker to act as facilitator for the discussions, adding that the proposals presented at an informal Heads of Delegation meeting on 17 January to hear the views of members, as well as the comments made on the proposals, were a good basis for moving the discussions forward. They reiterated however that these talks must be de-linked from the matter of starting the selection process to fill Appellate Body vacancies.
Surveillance of implementation
The United States presented status reports with regard to DS184, "US — Anti-Dumping Measures on Certain Hot-Rolled Steel Products from Japan", DS160, "United States — Section 110(5) of US Copyright Act", DS464, "United States — Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Measures on Large Residential Washers from Korea", DS471, "United States — Certain Methodologies and their Application to Anti-Dumping Proceedings Involving China" and DS488, "US — Anti-Dumping Measures on Certain Oil Country Tubular Goods from Korea".
The European Union presented its status report with regard to DS291, "EC — Measures Affecting the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products".
Indonesia presented its status reports in DS484, "Indonesia — Measures Concerning the Importation of Chicken Meat and Chicken Products" and DS477 and DS478, "Indonesia — Importation of Horticultural Products, Animals and Animal Products".
The next meeting of the DSB is scheduled for 25 February.
More information on WTO dispute settlement is available here.