For the first time since the Russian Federation’s accession to the WTO four years, in 2012, cases were decided this August by two WTO panels involving Russia. The Russian Federation was a respondent in both cases and both decisions were against it. These decisions now set the stage in the near future to assess Russia’s compliance with global trade law.
The first case decided on August 12, 2016, determined that Russia’s custom duties on certain agricultural and manufacturing products, including paper and refrigerators, violated its Schedule of Concessions within in its Accession Agreement. This notwithstanding custom duties authorized by Russia’s membership in the Eurasia Economic Union. (DS 485 — Tariff Treatment of Certain Agricultural and Manufacturing Products.)
The second case decided on August 19, 2016, assessed Russia’s EU-wide ban and EU member-state bans on pig products, because of concerns over the African swine fever. They were deemed to violate the SPS Agreement, in part, for not being based on scientific measures. (DS 475 – Measures on the Importation of Live Pigs, Pork from the European Union.)
Of course, Russia has the right to appeal and then time to implement these decisions. So the international community will need to wait a bit longer to see how Russia will respond.
It should be noted that there are four more cases pending where Russia is the Respondent. Brought by the EU, Japan and the Ukraine. They involve primarily fees on autos and railway equipment. (Cases DS 462, 463, 479, 499.)
Just as interestingly, there are four cases pending where Russia is the Complainant. They involve the EU’s methodologies concerning dumping and subsidy determinations, the EU energy sector, and a complaint against the Ukraine concerning antidumping duties. (Cases DS 474, 476, 493, 494.)
Time will tell about the Russian Federation’s compliance with the decisions of the WTO dispute resolution system and its compliance with global trade law generally. But this will not be too long.
Russia’s compliance with the decisions of the WTO panels will tell us much about the way the Russian government views compliance with international norms in the global trading system generally and the role it sees itself playing in the global trading and political systems.
Are trade rules to be observed or to be ignored? We’ll see, shortly.
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