The Jurisprudence of the World Trade Organization in 2014
by Thomas Cottier, Rachel Liechti, Ilaria Espa and Tetyana Payosova
In 2014, the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) adopted seven panel reports and six Appellate Body rulings. Two of the cases relate to anti-dumping measures. Three cases, comprising five complaints, are of particular interest and these are summarised and discussed below. China – Rare Earths further refines the relationship between protocols of accession and the general provisions of WTO agreements, in particular the exceptions of Article XX GATT. Recourse to that provision is no longer excluded but depends on a careful case-by-case analysis. While China failed to comply with the conditions for export restrictions, the case reiterates the problem of insufficiently developed disciplines on export restrictions on strategic minerals and other commodities in WTO law. EC – Seals Products is a landmark case for two reasons. Firstly, it limits the application of the agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) resulting henceforth in a narrow reading of technical regulations. Normative rules prescribing conditions for importation are to be dealt with under the rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) instead. Secondly, the ruling permits recourse to public morals in justifying import restrictions essentially on the basis of process and production methods (PPMs). Meanwhile, the more detailed implications for extraterritorial application of such rules and for the concept of PPMs remain open as these key issues were not raised by the parties to the case. Peru – Agricultural Products adds to the interpretation of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), but most importantly, it confirms the existing segregation of WTO law and the law of free trade agreements. The case is of particular importance for Switzerland in its relations with the European Union (EU). The case raises, but does not fully answer, the question whether in a bilateral agreement, Switzerland or the EU can, as a matter of WTO law, lawfully waive their right of lodging complaints against each other under WTO law within the scope of their bilateral agreement, for example the agreement on agriculture where such a clause exists.