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WTO panel report on India sugar subsidy case may not come before Q2, 2021

In 2019, Brazil, Australia and Guatemala dragged India into the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism alleging that New Delhi's sugar subsidies to farmers are inconsistent with global trade rules. Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of sugar in the world.

April 29, 2020 / 08:20 PM IST

The dispute settlement panel of the World Trade Organisation is unlikely to come out with its report on a case against India's support measures for the sugar sector before the Q2 of 2021 on account of complex procedural and factual nature of the matter, the WTO said on Wednesday.

In 2019, Brazil, Australia and Guatemala dragged India into the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism alleging that New Delhi's sugar subsidies to farmers are inconsistent with global trade rules. Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of sugar in the world.

Due to the complex procedural and factual nature of the disputes and in light of the harmonized timetables adopted thus far, the panel estimates to issue the final report to the parties not before the second quarter of 2021, the WTO said.

The panel on India's measures concerning sugar and sugarcane was established by the dispute settlement body on August 15, 2019.

As per the norms, when a panel considers that it cannot issue its report within six months, it shall inform the dispute settlement body in writing accordingly and indicate the reasons, together with an estimate of the period within which it will issue its report, it said.

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According to the understanding on rules and procedures governing the settlement of disputes provides that the period in which a panel shall conduct its examination, from the date that the composition and terms of reference of the panel have been agreed upon until the date the final report is issued to the parties to the dispute, shall, as a general rule, not exceed six months.

"The reports will only be available to the public once they are circulated to the members in all three working languages (English, French, Spanish) of the WTO. The date of circulation depends on completion of translation and the Panels are not in a position to provide an estimated circulation date at this time," it added.

The panel was set up after the request from by Brazil, Australia and Guatemala to review India's support measures for the sugar sector.

India has stated that the measures were consistent with its WTO obligations.

It has stated that the support measures are intended to provide for and avoid the over-exploitation of 35 million vulnerable, resource-poor farmers in the country.

The three countries (Brazil, Australia and Guatemala) had expressed their concerns that India's support exceeds the levels of domestic support allowed to India under the WTO's Agriculture Agreement and that India was granting prohibited export subsidies.

They had alleged that the measures have a negative impact on global market prices for sugar and their sugar producers.

According to rules, a WTO member or members can file a case in the Geneva-based multilateral body if they feel that a particular measure is against the norms of the WTO.

Bilateral consultation is the first step to resolve a dispute. If both the sides are not able to resolve the matter through consultation, either can approach for the establishment of a dispute settlement panel.

If the panel rules against India's sugar subsidies, India can approach the appellate body of the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism.
PTI
first published: Apr 29, 2020 08:15 pm

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