Subscribe to My Feed

Tell a Friend

  • Polls

    How Is My Site? / ¿Cómo es mi sitio web?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...
  • Recent Comments:

  • « | Home | »

    The Significance of the WTO Biotech Ruling for LAC

    By Keith R | March 5, 2007

    Topics: Biodiversity, Biotechnology, Economics & the Environment, Environmental Protection | No Comments »

    1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

    When the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute panel on biotech products involving Argentina, Canada, and the US vs. the European Union (EU) released its report at the end of September, I sat down to start this entry with an outline and list of possible points, thoughts, items to check on, etc. — my usual brainstorming.

    I downloaded the panel report and tried to wade through it, but quickly gave up (it’s hundreds of pages of interesting topics made to be as bland and boring as humanly possible). Then I checked the “quick and dirty” analyses done by many law offices, and got frustrated with the excessive legalese lawyers like to employ to make their writings unreadable and ponderous.

    When I finally realized that the EU had been given a period to appeal, I shelved the entry until it was clear whether the EU would fight it and on what basis. That happened in late November when the EU let the deadline for appeal lapse, but at that time I was up to my chin in work and blog articles such as the examination of the Stern Review. Time now to catch up!

    If you live, breath and obsess on biotechnology, or on biotech applications in agriculture, then this doubtless is not news to you. But many of us don’t. The press was not very good about covering the issue, and where they did, they tended to focus almost exclusively on the US-EU dimension. As you well know by now, at The Temas Blog we have a different focus!

    Why It Matters

    I am not discussing this issue here simply because Argentina was one of the parties to the dispute. It matters to most, if not all, of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) for several reasons:

    It also should be noted that early on in the dispute panel process several WTO members, including the LAC nations Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, reserved their rights as third parties to benefit from the eventual ruling.

    The Essence of the Dispute

    The “biotech case” is actually three trade related dispute settlement filings rolled into one to be heard by a single WTO panel. In May 2003, Argentina, Canada and the US filed against the EU alleging that a de facto EU moratorium on approvals of biotech products from 1999 to 2003, as well as the existence of individual EU Member State (Austria, Italy, Luxembourg) marketing and import prohibitions (“safeguard measures”) on previously approved biotech products, violated four different trade agreements overseen by the WTO. The panel basically threw out (“did not need to rule”) charges related to three of these trade agreements, but decided to examine those related to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS).

    In its defense the EU argued that (1) it did not operate a de facto moratorium, pointing out that there was never an official communication to that effect; (2) there was no “undue delay” in approving products for commercial use; (3) measures were based on the “an expression of the precautionary principle” called for in the Biosafety Protocol to the Biodiversity Convention and utilizing SPS Article 5.7, allowing temporary action where there is felt to be there is insufficient scientific information on which to base a risk assessment (as the SPS usually requires for measures).

    The dispute panel focused on three basic issues: (1) “undue delay”; (2) the SPS requirement that trade measures be based on a scientific risk assessment; (3) the precautionary principal/Article 5.7 defense. After many hearings, filings and amicus briefs, it:

    So What Does This All Mean?

    Beyond “compensation” to Argentina, Canada and the US (possibly as well for the other aforementioned nations that filed their interest in the outcome) for their claimed trade injuries as the result of the EU’s actions found by the panel to be in violation of the SPS, this panel judgment has several very important policy impacts:

    — Keith R

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Subscribe to My Comments Feed

    Leave a Reply