The WTO released its Annual Report on 28-5-2014. Not surprisingly, the ‘Bali Package’ has been highlighted as an important milestone in negotiations. The WTO is now 159 member strong – notable new entrants being, Russia, Laos and Tajikistan. Yemen is also joining the WTO to take the tally to 160.
On dispute settlement, the report states that although the number fell as compared to 2012, there were 20 requests for consultation and use of the dispute settlement mechanism was significant. The adjudicating bodies examined 28 disputes, and the DSB established 12 panels. Further, the greatest number of disputes, eight in total, concerned either local content requirements in subsidies and investment measures or trade remedies, such as anti-dumping and countervailing duties. From 1995 till end of 2013 USA has been the largest complainant and respondent. China has filed 12 complaints compared to being respondent in 31 cases.
An interesting observation in the report is that according to a World Bank study exports from least-developed countries’ (LDCs) are being constrained by higher SPS standards being used by BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China). However, SPS have been at issue in India US (Poultry) and EU-US (use of hormones in livestock) disputes also. 122 anti-dumping actions were initiated for the period from January to June 2013 by members compared to115 in the same period in 2012.
Overall the report indicates that multilateralism is in place and despite the spurt in Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs), transparency and inclusiveness ensure that RTAs can take in more members like the Trans Atlantic Trade Partnership.