In a recent meeting of the World Trade Organization's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on November 27, an agreement was reached to form a dispute panel at the request of Indonesia. This panel will scrutinize the countervailing duties imposed by the European Union (EU) on biodiesel imports from Indonesia.
Indonesia's request marked the second time it sought the establishment of a panel to determine whether the EU's imposition of countervailing duties on biodiesel imports from Indonesia complies with WTO rules. The EU had declined the initial request during the October 26 DSB meeting. Indonesia reiterated its commitment to safeguarding its national interests and urged the EU to align its measures with WTO provisions.
On its part, the EU firmly asserted that its measures were fully justified and expressed confidence that they would ultimately be deemed compliant with WTO law. Consequently, the DSB agreed to the formation of the panel. Third-party rights to participate in the panel proceedings were reserved by several WTO members, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, the Russian Federation, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, and Türkiye.
Colombia Successfully Implements Recommendations in Frozen Fries Dispute
In another development, Colombia reported to the DSB that it had fully implemented the recommendations stemming from a dispute known as DS591. This dispute pertained to anti-dumping duties imposed on frozen fries from Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. Colombia informed the DSB that a ministerial resolution, published on November 21, effectively incorporated the DSB's recommendations based on the panel's conclusions and the Multi-party interim appeal arrangement (MPIA) arbitration. Colombia expressed its belief that it had fulfilled all its obligations as outlined in the arbitration award, effectively deeming the dispute resolved. Colombia also noted the successful utilization of the MPIA procedure for the first time in this case, emphasizing its usefulness and efficiency.
However, the EU expressed disappointment that Colombia had not met the November 5 deadline, which was mutually agreed upon by both parties, for implementing the DS591 ruling. The EU reserved the right to express its views on compliance at a later stage and voiced regret over Colombia's omission in providing a status report on its implementation progress, as mandated by the WTO's Dispute Settlement Understanding.
Ongoing Discussions on Appellate Body Appointments
The issue of Appellate Body appointments remains a recurring topic of discussion within the WTO. During the meeting, Guatemala, representing 130 WTO members, introduced the group's proposal for the 69th time to initiate processes for filling vacancies on the Appellate Body. The extensive number of members supporting this proposal reflects shared concerns over the Appellate Body's current situation and its impact on the overall WTO dispute settlement system.
The United States reiterated its longstanding non-support for the proposed decision to commence Appellate Body appointments. The U.S. maintained that its concerns with the WTO dispute settlement process remain unaddressed. Instead, it expressed commitment to working towards a fundamentally reformed and improved system, welcoming the experimentation of members in finding alternative means to resolve disputes.
Twenty-four members voiced their perspectives on the matter, with many acknowledging the commitment made by ministers during the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference to engage in discussions aimed at achieving a fully functional dispute settlement system by 2024. These members pledged their support for securing such an outcome, emphasizing its significance for the security and predictability of the multilateral trading system. Several members referenced ongoing informal discussions on dispute settlement reform and commended the progress achieved therein. Additionally, some members highlighted the MPIA as a temporary means available for securing an appeal review while the Appellate Body remains non-operational.
Guatemala expressed regret on behalf of the 130 members that the selection processes had not been launched, emphasizing that ongoing conversations about dispute settlement system reform should not hinder the Appellate Body from operating fully. Members were urged to fulfill their obligations under the Dispute Settlement Understanding to fill vacancies as they arise.
Surveillance of Implementation and Other Business
The United States presented status reports related to various disputes, including anti-dumping measures on hot-rolled steel products from Japan, copyright measures, anti-dumping and countervailing measures on large residential washers from Korea, and certain methodologies related to anti-dumping proceedings involving China. The European Union also presented a status report on measures affecting the approval and marketing of biotech products in DS291. Indonesia provided its status reports for DS477 and DS478, involving the importation of horticultural products, animals, and animal products.
Under "other business," Antigua and Barbuda noted the 20th anniversary of its dispute complaint against the United States in DS285. They proposed a substantive agenda item for the next DSB meeting to delve further into the case and learn about compliance actions taken or intended by U.S. authorities. Antigua and Barbuda characterized the dispute as a symbol of the need for reform within the WTO dispute settlement system.
The United States responded, indicating that the issue could have been included on the meeting's proposed agenda if substantive discussion was intended. The U.S. acknowledged Antigua and Barbuda's statement and pledged to convey it to its capital.
Representing the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) group of countries, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines expressed ongoing disappointment over the lack of a definitive resolution in the dispute after two decades. India and Bangladesh also urged a resolution to the dispute.
Additionally, India introduced a joint communication from Egypt, India, and South Africa on November 24, titled "Reflections on the Reform of the WTO Dispute Settlement System." India emphasized the critical need to initiate formal multilateral discussions on dispute reform and carefully consider the integration of outcomes from the ongoing informal process, essential for achieving comprehensive, balanced, and equitable results.
In addition to the proponents, 16 members offered their comments, with some developing country members emphasizing their challenges in ensuring effective participation in ongoing informal dispute settlement reform talks. They stressed the importance of addressing concerns relevant to developing and least developed countries and advocated for transitioning the discussions into a formal process. Meanwhile, other members commended the ongoing informal process for its openness, transparency, and inclusivity, highlighting progress made in addressing the concerns raised by the proponents.