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WTO Establishes Panels To Review US Solar Cell Duties, Indian Sugar Programmes

New Delhi:

Port Wings News Network:

At a meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on 15 August, WTO members agreed to a request from China for a dispute panel to review a US safeguard measure on imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic products. Members also agreed to establish panels requested by Brazil, Australia and Guatemala to review India’s support measures for the sugar sector.

India – Measures Concerning Sugar and Sugarcane

Brazil, Australia and Guatemala made their second requests for panels to determine whether measures in India supporting the domestic sugar and sugarcane sector are compatible with WTO rules. Their first requests were blocked by India at the DSB meeting on 22 July.

The three countries reiterated their concerns that India’s support exceeds the levels of domestic support allowed to India under the WTO’s Agriculture Agreement and that India was granting prohibited export subsidies. They also reiterated concerns about the negative impact this support was having on global market prices for sugar and their sugar producers. The three asked that a single panel be established to review the claims as the three complaints deal with essentially the same subject matter and were filed at the same time.

Although responding separately to the three complaints, India delivered the same reply:  the Indian measures in question were not having a trade-distorting effect on the global sugar market nor were they affecting the economic interests of the complainants. India also reiterated that the measures were consistent with its WTO obligations. The support is intended to provide for, and avoid the over-exploitation of, 35 million vulnerable, resource-poor farmers in the country. India said it could not agree to the establishment of a single panel as the matters were distinct and separate.

Brazil, Australia and Guatemala all expressed disappointment with India’s refusal to agree to a single panel to review their claims, noting the extra burden this would place on the parties as well as the WTO Secretariat.

The DSB agreed to the establishment of the three panels. The United States, the European Union, Honduras, Russia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Japan, Thailand, Panama, Canada and China all reserved their third party rights in the three proceedings. Australia, Brazil and Guatemala also reserved third party rights in the proceedings of their fellow complainant

United States – Safeguard Measure on Imports of Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Products

China submitted its second request for a panel to review a US safeguard measure on imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells (CSPV). China’s first request was blocked at a DSB meeting on 22 July.

China said that it does not deny the right of WTO members to temporarily suspend concessions and take safeguard measures on imports of CSPV but the United States failed to conform to the most essential conditions that would justify the imposition of the safeguard. China said it was confident the panel will also find the US did not respect many of the procedural guarantees governing safeguard proceedings. These defects have resulted in the imposition of safeguard measures that do not constitute relief limited to what is necessary to “prevent or remedy serious injury and facilitate adjustment” in accordance with the obligations under the WTO’s Safeguards Agreement.

The United States reiterated that WTO rules allow a member to temporarily suspend concessions in order to take a safeguard action when a product is being imported into its territory in such increased quantities and under such conditions as to cause serious injury or threat of serious injury to the member’s domestic industry.  The competent US authority determined these conditions were being met. The US added that it was ready to engage in the panel proceedings and asked China to support opening the panel meetings to the public.

The DSB agreed to the establishment of the panel. The European Union, Japan, India, Brazil, the Philippines, Russia, Chinese Taipei, Canada and Malaysia reserved their third party rights to participate in the proceedings.

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