The World Trade Organization and the Environment

By P. K. Rao | Go to book overview
Under the GATT/WTO, DSB does not consider obligations of members under MEAs even when both disputants ratified the competing or complementing treaty, as was amplified in the TunaDolphin 1994 Panel Report. The Panel refused to consider any obligations under CITES or other MEAs. The Panel cited Article 31 of the Vienna Convention with a possible misinterpretation of the requirement that all parties must have been signatories of both the agreements (GATT as well as an MEA like CITES). The reference here to 'all parties' should have been all disputants and not all signatories of all agreements under consideration for dispute resolution (for detailed explanations in this regard, see Fletcher, 1996).Finally, it is important that the new GATT 1994 and the DSU recognize the prescriptions of the preamble to the WTO charter wherein the roles of the need to protect the environment, and the need for sustainable development are clearly stated. It remains an empty foundation if these aspects are not fully integrated into the DSU and its methods of dispute resolution.
Appendix I
The dispute settlement panel process
The various stages a dispute can go through in the WTO are given below (WTO, 1998). At all stages, countries in dispute are encouraged to consult each other in order to settle 'out of court'. At all stages, the WTO director-general can offer his good offices, to mediate or to help achieve a conciliation.
Consultations 60 days (Article 4)
Panel established by DSB (Article 6)
Terms of reference (Article 7) about 20 to 30 days Composition (Article 8)
Panel examination Meetings with parties (Article 12) and third parties (Article 10)
Interim review stage Descriptive part of report sent to parties for comment (Article 15.1) Interim report sent to parties for comment (Article 15.2)

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