Current WTO disputes
New Zealand is currently involved in six disputes - one as a principal complainant and a further five as a third party to other members' disputes.
Disputes with New Zealand as a Principal Complainant
Our decision to challenge Indonesia’s agricultural trade restrictions through WTO dispute settlement was made in response to their significant impact on New Zealand exports. New Zealand beef exports, for instance, have fallen by over 80 percent into what was previously our second-largest beef export market by volume, worth $180 million in trade per year. The accumulated trade impact to our beef sector alone is now estimated at between $0.5 and 1 billion. Certain New Zealand horticultural exports are also affected.
New Zealand held WTO dispute settlement consultations (the first phase of the WTO dispute settlement process) with Indonesia in relation to our concerns in 2013 and 2014. Unfortunately, those consultations did not resolve the dispute.
On 18 March 2015, New Zealand requested the WTO Dispute Settlement Body to establish a panel to hear this dispute. New Zealand’s Panel Request was made alongside a Panel Request by the United States, with whom we are co-complainants. The following 14 WTO Members are third parties in the dispute: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, the EU, India, Japan, Korea, Norway, Paraguay, Singapore and Thailand.
On 13 November 2015, New Zealand filed its first written submission to the WTO Panel. The first oral hearing with the Panel was held in Geneva from 1-3 February 2016. A second written submission was then filed on 2 March with a second oral hearing with the Panel held from 13-14 April. In the course of the litigation, New Zealand has responded to 120 questions from the Panel. We expect that the Panel will issue its decision in the second half of 2016.
Second New Zealand Request for Consultations [PDF, 33 KB]
During 2012 and 2013, Ukraine, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Indonesia separately commenced dispute settlement proceedings against Australia in respect of certain Australian laws and regulations that impose restrictions on trade marks and other plain packaging requirements on tobacco products and packaging. The complainants have challenged Australia’s measures under three WTO agreements: the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Consultations between each of the complainants and Australia did not resolve the disputes.
On 5 May 2014, a WTO Panel was composed to jointly hear and determine the five complaints. New Zealand and a record number of other WTO Members are participating in the proceedings as third parties. Ukraine has suspended its proceeding and is now participating in the other proceedings as a third party.
The Panel has announced that it “expects to issue its final report to the parties not before the first half of 2016”.
Since 2009 New Zealand has participated as a third party in both the original proceedings and the compliance proceedings of the WTO dispute bought by Canada and Mexico challenging the United States’ mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL) measures on various food products, including beef.
As an export economy faced with an increasing number of COOL requirements, New Zealand has a systemic interest in the development of WTO jurisprudence around the consistency of COOL measures with WTO obligations.
On 19 November 2009, the Dispute Settlement Body established a single panel to examine Canada and Mexico’s complaints. The United States, Canada and Mexico all appealed the Panel Report and following appeal proceedings the Appellate Body’s report was adopted by the Dispute Settlement Body on 23 July 2012.
Following the Appellate Body’s findings the United States made a number of changes to its mandatory COOL regime. However, on 25 September 2013 Canada and Mexico requested the establishment of a WTO compliance panel challenging those new measures as inconsistent with WTO obligations. The United States, Canada and Mexico all then appealed the compliance panel’s report.
On 18 May 2015, the Apellate Body ruled that the United States mandatory COOL rules were inconsistent with WTO obligations. Arbitration to determine the appropriate level of retaliation by Mexico and Canada is ongoing in the WTO.
In October 2008 Mexico requested consultations regarding the United States’ refusal to allow Mexican tuna to be marketed in the United States using domestic “dolphin-safe” labelling. New Zealand had both a systemic and commercial interest in the dispute due to our interest in eco-labelling and fisheries.
Mexico filed its request for the establishment of a Panel in March 2009 and the Panel was composed on 14 December 2009. New Zealand lodged its third party submission on 28 April 2010. The first Panel hearing was held on 18-20 October 2010. The Panel Report was circulated on 15 September 2011. The United States submitted their appeal on 20 January 2012 with Mexico submitting their cross appeal on 25 January 2012. New Zealand also participated in the appeal phase of the dispute, as a third party. The Appellate Body’s report was circulated on 16 May 2012. The United States’ reasonable period of time for implementation expired on 13 July 2013, and Mexico requested the establishment of a compliance panel under Article 21.5 of the DSU. The compliance panel’s report was issued on 14 April 2015 and subsequently appealed by both Mexico and the United States. New Zealand made written submissions and an oral statement to the Appellate Body.