The WTO panel, which has been set up last August to examine the case, has started receiving, since the beginning of the year, the submissions of the parties concerned in the challenge against the EU common market organization for sugar. It will be recalled that in July 2003, Brazil, Australia and Thailand brought the case to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). These countries are contending that the EU provides export subsidies for sugar, in excess of its reduction commitments level, as provided in its schedule of concessions.
The conclusion of the dispute is crucial for a number of countries, including ACP sugar exporting countries to the EU. In spite of the assurances given at the highest political level by Australia and Brazil that they would not take steps in their dispute with the EC which would directly or indirectly affect the interest of the sugar exporting ACP states, the latter are still strongly concerned about the Australian, Brazilian and Thai action.
Actually, the linkages between the EU Sugar regime and the Sugar Protocol are such that any negative impact on the former will irremediably backlash on the latter with all the ensuing social and economic consequences. In the ACP ministerial Declaration to the WTO Cancun Ministerial Meeting, it is stated that if the challenge was upheld, it " (Ö) would result in serious adverse effects on the livelihood of many farmers and serious political, economic and social problems in the ACP states concerned" (paragraph 23).
It is expected that the dispute would be settled by the end of November next if there is no appeal against the ruling of the panel whose final report will be released on 23 September 2004. On the contrary, in the case there is an appeal, it would be around January or February 2005 that the outcome of the dispute would be known. Moreover, the dispute can be dragged for a longer period should implementation issue arises. An indicative schedule of the disputeís main procedures is given hereunder :
11 February 2004 Submission of complainants
11 March 2004 Submission of the EU
18 March 2004 Submission of 3rd parties (of which Mauritius)
30 Ė 31 March, 1 April 2004 First substantive meeting
11-12 May 2004 Second substantive meeting. Third parties may attend as observers.
Late July 2004 First Panel Interim Report
23 September 2004 Panel Final Report (tentatively)
Late November 2004 (i.e 60 days after circulation of the panelís report) : Dispute Settlement Body (DSB)adopts report if their is no appeal.
In case of appeal
Mid October 2004 (i.e. 10 days prior to the DSB meeting to examine the panelís report) : Notice of appeal
Mid December 2004 or mid January 2005 (i.e. 60 to 90 days after the notice of appeal) : Appellate Body report
Mid January or mid February 2005 (i.e 30 days after Appellate Body Report) : DSB adopts Appellate Body Report