TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May16/18)
25 May 2016
Third World Network

Mexico initiates compliance panel proceedings in tuna dispute
Published in SUNS #8242 dated 18 May 2016

Geneva, 17 May (Kanaga Raja) -- Mexico on Friday (13 May) notified the WTO Secretariat that it is requesting consultations with the United States over the US non-compliance with the recommendations and rulings of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) in the dispute over the US ‘dolphin-safe' labelling regime for tuna products.

The request for consultations, the first step in the dispute settlement proceedings, is over the revised measures published by the US on 23 March 2016 to bring itself into compliance.

Under the dispute settlement procedures, the member to which the request is made shall, unless otherwise mutually agreed, reply to the request within 10 days after the date of its receipt and shall enter into consultations in good faith within a period of no more than 30 days after the date of receipt of the request.

If the consultations fail to settle the dispute within 60 days after the date of receipt of the request for consultations, the complaining party may request the establishment of a panel.

Mexico's request for consultations follows the establishment of a compliance panel by the DSB on 9 May, at the request of the United States, to examine these same measures.

The US move came even as the issue has been referred to arbitration over the level of authorization to be given to Mexico against the US over non-compliance, long after the expiry of the reasonable period of time given to the US to comply with the rulings and recommendations of the DSB in this ‘dolphin-safe' labelling dispute.

The arbitration panel is to rule on the level of retaliation to be allowed over a request by Mexico for authorisation to retaliate to the tune of $472.3 million annually in its dispute with the United States on its ‘dolphin-safe' labelling regime for tuna products.

In its communication to the DSB, the US had said that on 22 March 2016, it revised the amended tuna measure and brought the dolphin-safe labelling measure subject to the recommendations of the DSB into compliance with the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement and the GATT 1994.

Specifically, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued an interim final rule (2016 IFR) that revised the amended tuna measure.

According to the US, the 2016 IFR rectifies the inconsistencies of the amended tuna measure with the TBT Agreement and the GATT 1994 as found by the DSB in the proceeding under Article 21.5 of the DSU. (See SUNS #8239 dated 12 May 2016.) +