Jurisprudence or precedent: treaty interpretation of Appellate Body and reform of WTO dispute settlement mechanism

ZHANG Naigen1,2

(1.Fudan University)
(2.WTO Law Research Society of China Law Society)

【Abstract】The WTO Appellate Body as the core institution of multilateral trade system faces unprecedented challenges. The United States accuses the Appellate Body of authorizing its treaty interpretation as precedent and argues that it is an institutional issue to reform the WTO. The US stance should be analyzed and rational assessment of the practice of the Appellate Body in treaty interpretation should be conducted to distinguish jurisprudence from precedent and analyze related issues before properly reforming the WTO dispute settlement mechanism.

【Keywords】 Appellate Body; treaty interpretation; jurisprudence; precedent; WTO reform;

【DOI】

Download this article

(Translated by HAN Mei)

    Footnote

    [1]. [1] On December 18, 2018, the United States issued a statement on the precedential value of Panel or Appellate Body Reports at the Meeting of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body. Please refer to “Statement by the United States on the Precedential Value of Panel or Appellate Body Reports,” https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news18_e/dsb_18dec18_e.htm [2018-12-22]. [^Back]

    [2]. [2] WTO members such as China, EU, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and the Philippines commented on the US statement, believing that the DSU and WTO agreements did not indeed empower the Appellate Body to make precedent-binding decisions, questioning whether the Appellate Body was seeking such power, and holding that it was not practical for the US to accuse the Appellate Body of maintaining previous reports with “cogent reasons” with the US-Stainless Steel (Mexico)as an example. Please refer to https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news18_e/dsb_18dec18_e.htm [2018-12-22]. [^Back]

    [3]. [1] [France] David, R. Major Legal Systems in the World Today. Qi, Z. (trans.) Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 127–128 (1984). [^Back]

    [4]. [2] Gilbert Guillaume, “The Use of Precedent by International Judges and Arbitrators,” Journal of International Dispute Settlement, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2012) p. 6. The article begins with a general statement: “In national legal systems, precedent constitutes the starting-point of judges’ reasoning. Most of the time, judges hew closely to precedent for purposes of legal certainty and for fear that their decisions might be challenged before higher instances. This practice translates into the stare decisis rule in Common Law, and into the concept of jurisprudence constante in Roman-German Law. In international law, the stare decisis rule has been excluded since 1922, but permanent jurisdictions constantly refer to their previous decisions. Nonetheless, the former are still led to reassess their jurisprudence by various methods in order to take into consideration the evolutions of the law and of international society.” (p. 5) It is worth noting that here, “stare decisis” is a “rule” and “jurisprudence constante” is a “concept.” This article discusses the “precedent” role of international adjudicatory bodies in dealing with previous cases and the jurisprudence in the sense of “jurisprudence constante.” [^Back]

    [5]. [3] For example, in the 1926 Case Concerning Certain German Interests in Polish Upper Silesia of PCIJ, from the perspective of international law and the ICJ, the national law is completely the fact that expresses the will of the state and constitutes the act of the state. This precedent is used for jurisprudence by International adjudicatory bodies including the WTO. Please refer to Certain German Interests in Polish Upper Silesia, [1926], PCIJ Series A, No. 7, p. 19. [^Back]

    [6]. [1] According to the Protocol of Provisional Application of the GATT, October 30, 1947, 55 UNTS 308, GATT entered into force provisionally from January 1, 1948 till December 31, 1994. Article 1 (a) of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization and its annex General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994, which entered into force on January 1, 1995, clearly stipulated that Protocol of Provisional Application was excluded. [^Back]

    [7]. [2] John Jackson, The World Trading System: Law and Policy of International Economic Relations, Cambridge: the MIT Press, 1989, p. 336, endnote 15. [^Back]

    [8]. [3] The Phrase “Charges of Any Kind” in Article 1:1 in Relation to Consular Taxes, Ruling by the Chairman on 24 August 1948, II/12. Back then, there were no dispute settlement panels, and the GPs Chairman was responsible for the ruling. The case involved the interpretation of “charges of any kind” in Article 1, paragraph 1 of GATT. [^Back]

    [9]. [4] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. U. N. T. S. vol. 1155, p. 331. Signed version (including Chinese version). See also 国际条约集 (1969–1971). Beijing: The Commercial Press, 42–77 (1980). [^Back]

    [10]. [5] [America] John, J. The World Trading System: Law and Policy of International Economic Relations. Zhang, N. (trans.) Fudan University Press, 137 (2001). [^Back]

    [11]. [6] The WTO Analytical Index: Guide to WTO Laws and Practices. The electronic version is available in the Appellate Body section of the WTO website, https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/publications_e/ai17_e/ai17_e.htm [2018-12-22]. [^Back]

    [12]. [1] Temple of Preah Vihear, (Cambodia/Thailand), Preliminary Objections, ICJ Reports, p. 32. [^Back]

    [13]. [2] Polish Postal Service in Danzig, [1925] PCIJ Series B, No 11, p. 39. [^Back]

    [14]. [3] Please refer to International Court of Justice, Digest of Judgments and Advisory Opinions, Canon and Case Law 1946–2012, Edited by Guenther Dahlhoff, Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2012, p. 1784. The book systematically collates “pronouncements” on customary international law in judgments or advisory opinions of the ICJ. [^Back]

    [15]. [4] Daimler Financial Services AG v. Argentine, ICSID Case No. ARB 05/1, Award, 22 August 2012, para. 91. [^Back]

    [16]. [1] The Legal Text: The Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations (in both Chinese and English). Beijing: Law Press China, (2000). The text below is quoted from this legal text. [^Back]

    [17]. [2] Japan-Alcoholic Beverages, DS8, 10.11/AB/R, 4 October 1996, pp. 12–13. [^Back]

    [18]. [3] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. U. N. T. S. vol. 1155, p. 331. Signed version (including Chinese version). See also 国际条约集 (1969–1971). Beijing: The Commercial Press, 42–77 (1980). The text below is quoted from VCLT. [^Back]

    [19]. [1] Report of the International Law Commission (2016), A/71/10, Conclusion 4. [^Back]

    [20]. [2] The Appellate Body affirmed that the standard for subsequent practice only came from the point of view of scholars. Ian M. Sinclair, The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2nd, 1984, p 137. [^Back]

    [21]. [3] Japan-Alcoholic Beverages, DS8, 10. 11/AB/R, 4 October 1996, footnote 30. [^Back]

    [22]. [4] Japan-Alcoholic Beverages, DS8, 10. 11/AB/R, 4 October 1996, para. 14–15. [^Back]

    [23]. [5] US-Gasoline, DS2/9/AB/R, 29 April 1996, p. 17. [^Back]

    [24]. [1] US-Gasoline, DS2/9/AB/R, 29 April 1996, p. 17. [^Back]

    [25]. [2] Territorial Dispute (Libyan v. Chad), ICJ Reports 1994, pp. 20–21, para. 41. [^Back]

    [26]. [3] Golder v. United Kingdom, ECHR, Application no. 4451/70 (1975), p. 10, para. 29. [^Back]

    [27]. [4] Restrictions to the Death Penalty Cases, IACHR, Advisory Opinion (1983), para. 48. [^Back]

    [28]. [5] Ahmadou Sadio Diollo, (Guinea v. Democratic Republic of the Congo), ICJ Reports 2010, p. 663, para. 65. [^Back]

    [29]. [6] Ahmadou Sadio Diollo, (Guinea v. Democratic Republic of the Congo), ICJ Reports 2010, p. 664, para. 66. [^Back]

    [30]. [1] Prosecutor v. Dusko Tradic, IT-94-1-A, 15 July 1999, para. 282. [^Back]

    [31]. [2] Alexnder Roer, Legal Theory, Sources of Law and the Semantic Web, Washington DC: IOS Press, 2009, p. 245. [^Back]

    [32]. [3] Todd Weiler, The Interpretation of International Investment Law, Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2013, p. 51. [^Back]

    [33]. [4] [France] Rene, D. Major Legal Systems in the World Today. Qi, Z. (trans.) Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 464 (1984). [^Back]

    [34]. [5] Richard H. Steinberg, “Judicial Lawmaking at the WTO: Discursive, Constitutional, and Political Constraints,” The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 98, No. 2 (Apr., 2004), p. 248. [^Back]

    [35]. [1] [America] Jackson, J. The World Trading System: Law and Policy of International Economic Relations. Zhang, N. (trans.) Shanghai: Fudan University Press, 121–123 (2001). [^Back]

    [36]. [2] John H. Jackson, Sovereignty, the WTO and Changing Fundamentals of International Law, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 177. [^Back]

    [37]. [3] On December 18, 2018, the United States issued a statement on the precedential value of Panel or Appellate Body Reports at the WTO Dispute Settlement Body meeting. Please refer to “Statement by the United States on the Precedential Value of Panel or Appellate Body Reports,” https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news18_e/dsb_18dec18_e.htm [2018-12-22]. [^Back]

    [38]. [4] US-Softwood Lumber V, DS/264/AB/R, 11 August 2004; US-Softwood Lumber V (21.5-Canada), DS264/AB/RW, 1 September 2006; US-Zeroing (EC), DS294/AB/R, 18 April 2006; US-Zeroing (EC) (21.5-EC), DS294/AB/RW, 11 June 2009; US-Zeroing (Japan), DS322/AB/R, 9 January 2007; US-Zeroing (Japan) (21.5-Japan), DS322/AB/RW, 31 August 2009; US-Stainless Steel (Mexico), DS344/AB/R, 30 April 2008; US-Continued Zeroing, DS350/AB/R, 4 February 2009; US-Zeroing (Korea), DS402/R, 24 February 2011; US-Shrimp (Viet Nam), DS404/R, 2 September 2011; US-Shrimp and Sawblades (China), DS422/R, 23 July 2012; US-Washing Machines, DS464/AB/R, 26 September 2016. [^Back]

    [39]. [1] US-Stainless Steel (Mexico), para. 86. [^Back]

    [40]. [2] US-Stainless Steel (Mexico), para. 94. [^Back]

    [41]. [3] US-Stainless Steel (Mexico), para. 96. [^Back]

    [42]. [4] US-Stainless Steel (Mexico), paras. 157–160. [^Back]

    [43]. [1] US-Gasoline, DS2/9/AB/R, 29 April 1996, p. 22. [^Back]

    [44]. [2] US-Shrimp, DS58/AB/R, 12 October 1998, paras. 118–119. [^Back]

    [45]. [3] EC-Bananas III (Article 21.5-Ecuadeor II/US), WT/DS27/AB/RW2/ECU/USA, 26 November 2008, para. 383. [^Back]

    [46]. [4] Zhang, N. Research on Rule of Law (法治研究), (1): 89–95 (2017). [^Back]

    [47]. [1] US-Clove Cigarettes, DS406/AB/R, 4 April 2012, para. 255. [^Back]

    [48]. [2] Working Procedures for Appellate Review, WT/AB/WP/6, 16 August 2010. [^Back]

    [49]. [1] The Appellate Body and its division shall take each appeal in accordance with the principle of case by case and in the light of harmonization of jurisprudence in the decisions under the Article 3.2 of the DSU to clarify the covered agreement. [^Back]

This Article

ISSN:1007-0974

CN: 11-3799/F

Vol , No. 02, Pages 44-56+5

March 2019

Downloads:0

Share
Article Outline

Abstract

  • 1 General understanding of jurisprudence and precedent
  • 2 The jurisprudential nature of the Appellate Body on treaty interpretation
  • 3 The jurisprudence constante and the de facto precedent of the Appellate Body on treaty interpretation
  • 4 Judging the jurisprudence constante of the Appellate Body on treaty interpretation from the perspective of WTO reform
  • Footnote