The World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement process, now 20 years old, is busier than ever.   At the Dispute Settlement Body’s (DSB) meeting on August 29, WTO Members reviewed the status of six ongoing disputes, which demonstrate the growth – and growing complexity – of dispute resolution.

For example, the DSB:

  • Adopted panel and Appellate Body reports finding that China’s export restrictions on rare earths violated its WTO obligations.  The decisions were an important victory for the United States, the European Union, Japan, and industries that depend on rare earths as manufacturing inputs.
  • Gave updates on large disputes involving the United States’ use of antidumping and countervailing duty laws against China, as well as China’s illegal ban on foreign suppliers of electronic payment services.
  • Heard an update on settlement proposals in the ongoing dispute between the United States and Antigua and Barbuda regarding cross-border supply of gambling and betting services.   The dispute is still unresolved after more than 10 years in the dispute settlement process.

These DSB cases neatly underscore several key trends affecting WTO dispute resolution – the disputes are getting larger and more complex, are examining new areas of WTO law (such as services), and compliance with DSB decisions is becoming more difficult.

Indeed, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo concluded by noting that at the next DSB meeting, he would brief members “on the steps he is taking to address the unprecedented increase in the number of disputes before the system.”

Another key trend was not mentioned but raises important process concerns – the rush to appeal adverse Panel reports immediately after they are made public.   Check back soon for further explanation of this trend and more on the international trade industry.

Disclaimer:  Wiley Rein represented domestic industries in the rare earths and AD/CVD disputes discussed above.