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Australia's record at the WTO

If success is measured by a win/loss record, then Australia has done remarkably well in the WTO dispute settlement system despite losing its recent appeal against New Zealand apple imports. Since the WTO dispute settlement system was created in 1995 Australia has been actively involved in 17 disputes in the WTO as a complainant and a defendant. Australia has won five of the seven cases it has prosecuted and lost three of the ten cases brought against it.

Here’s the balance sheet to date:

 In four of the five wins (Korea–Beef, US–Lamb, EU–Sugar Subsidy and EU–Trademarks) Australia was the initiating complainant and won on the substantive issue. In the two remaining cases brought by Australia (India–Quantitative Restrictions and Hungary–Export Subsidies) it achieved a resolution of the dispute through negotiation.

The Korea–Beef and US–Lamb disputes were significant wins advancing Australia’s agricultural trade interests and resulted in an expansion of Australia’s exports of beef and lamb to those markets. The US had to remove prohibitive tariffs (of up to 40 per cent) it had applied to imports of Australian lamb and the number of sales outlets for Australian beef in Korea increased from 4,000 to 45,000. Other major wins and negotiated outcomes produced global trade benefits:

• India removed import quotas on agricultural, textile and industrial products
• the EU stopped exporting 4 million tonnes of subsidised sugar a year
• the US repealed its controversial “Byrd Amendment” under which it distributed the revenue collected from anti-dumping duties to US producers.

By the same token, the Canada–Salmon and New Zealand–Apple rulings were significant defeats for Australia and involved a reversal of longstanding quarantine policies. This shows that potentially any Australian government measure or program which affects international trade can be brought to the attention of the WTO. Despite the loss over New Zealand apple imports, Australia remains a strong supporter of the WTO dispute settlement system: http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/wto_disputes.html.

The WTO is the only global body dealing with rules for trade between countries and a forum for dispute settlement.

Here’s an introduction to the WTO dispute settlement system: http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/disp_settlement_cbt_e/c1s1p1_e.htm

(Image source: http://minister.innovation.gov.au/PublishingImages/Shutterstock/ShippingPort_9983620p_a_p_a.jpg)