World Trade Organization

Author:International Law Group

WTO Panel finds that U.S. properly implemented previous Panel recommendations in dispute over application of Sea Turtle Conservation Act


Stemming from a 1996 Dispute Settlement Body finding that the United States had unjustly administered import restrictions on shrimp and shrimp products to the detriment of India, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Thailand, a World Trade Organization Panel heard a related complaint from Malaysia that the US has failed to comply with the requirements of the 1996 Panel recommendations.

The import restrictions in question required in 1996 that the US accept imported shrimp or shrimp products only from nations with the same shrimping policy as the United States, which required the use of Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs) to prevent the capture and injury of sea turtles during shrimping activity. Countries seeking certification by the US to export shrimp products to the US were given a "phase-in" period, during which they were allowed to continue exporting shrimp products to the US while they attempted to conform to the qualifications for certification.

The phase-in period granted to Caribbean and Western European states was longer than that granted to the South Asian and Indian Ocean states, and was thereby held to cause economic harm to the countries of India, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Thailand, and was also found to be discriminatory. The requirement that the policy adopted by countries seeking certification be the same as the policy adopted by the US was found to unjustly remove from national governments the right to choose the nation's economic policy.

The U.S. has since modified its requirements, providing technological...

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