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Mexican Sanctions On Hold as U.S. Claims WTO Win on Dolphin-Safe Tuna Labeling

Monday, October 30, 2017
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The U.S. is claiming a “complete and resounding” victory in a long-running dispute with Mexico after a World Trade Organization panel found that March 2016 amendments to its dolphin-safe tuna labeling rules bring the U.S. into compliance with its WTO obligations. The decision precludes Mexico from imposing the $163.2 million worth of retaliatory sanctions the WTO had previously authorized, though Mexico said it would file an appeal.

The U.S. amended its regulations for labeling imported tuna as dolphin-safe in July 2013 in response to a WTO decision that the previous regulations were not “even-handed.” Mexico objected to the revisions and took the issue back to the WTO, where the Appellate Body concluded in December 2015 that the rules continued to unfairly discriminate against tuna imported from Mexico. Mexico subsequently sought to impose $472.3 million in retaliatory sanctions but a WTO arbitrator ultimately lowered that amount to $163.2 million (though those sanctions were never imposed).

In the meantime the U.S. made further amendments to its regulations in March 2016 and requested the creation of a WTO panel to determine whether those changes brought the U.S. into compliance with the WTO’s recommendations and rulings. According to USTR, that panel ruled this week in the U.S.’ favor, meaning that “Mexico should not be entitled to impose countermeasures on U.S. goods.”

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