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When companies see their access to the U.S. market threatened by actions of U.S. Government agencies in trade cases, whether antidumping, countervailing duty, or safeguards, often they want to ask their government to challenge those actions at the World Trade Organization (“WTO”). Many governments, too, think they should take their grievances over U.S. policies to the WTO rather than challenge U.S. government actions in U.S. courts. However, companies, and governments, should first consider whether the likely benefits to them outweigh the potential costs.

The WTO dispute resolution process is designed to vindicate the rights of sovereign governments, not necessarily those of the private parties to trade disputes. Only governments may appear, and even a victory may not bring meaningful relief to the government or to the affected private parties. Also, the WTO process could put at risk meaningful relief that the private companies might be able to obtain on their own in U.S. courts.

The WTO process lacks a remand mechanism. Thus, should the WTO Appellate Body determine that a dispute resolution panel made a mistake, it could not send the issue back to the panel to correct the mistake. In many cases, this lack of remand authority means that an Appellate Body reversal, even on relatively minor grounds, terminates the proceedings without any resolution.

Without a remand capability, the Appellate Body cannot gather additional information when it has determined that panels below did not gather enough. The Appellate Body is not empowered to go beyond the record. So, the Appellate Body has to conclude that the record is inadequate, whereupon it may decline to rule, either on the whole case, or on some, often important, parts of it.

Even when the WTO finds that the U.S. actions were contrary to WTO obligations, this vindication may be of little practical benefit for a complaining government or an affected company. The WTO retaliation scheme often involves retaliation in other industry sectors, but unless the pain of the retaliation is enough to cause the United States to comply, it typically does not benefit the industry sector that is the focus of the dispute. The government authorized to exact compensation through retaliation must navigate domestic politics to pick industries for retaliation, and often finds it impossible not to incur the wrath of one industry or another. After all, antidumping and countervailing duty cases erupt because one country believes another is shipping too much of a product at an unfair or subsidized price. It would be unusual for the second country to be shipping similar quantities of the same merchandise in the other direction. Retaliation – restricting imports – is never likely to be on the same merchandise. Therefore, the government may be vindicated, and almost inevitably at a political price, and the company frequently gets no relief at all.

Another factor that companies, especially, should consider is whether a WTO challenge could put at risk more meaningful relief that the company might obtain through appeal of the agency actions in U.S. courts. Just as there is a possibility that victory before the WTO could improve the chances of victory before a U.S. court, there is risk that a loss before the WTO could undermine the company’s U.S. court appeal. This risk is acute in antidumping cases because WTO panelists are almost always former government dumping officials: their training and experience is in imposing duties on goods being imported into their countries. They are not very sympathetic with exporting companies, nor as comfortable with interpreting the law from an exporter’s perspective. Also, less obvious, but nonetheless real, is the risk that a victory at the WTO might be used by the United States to trump a victory in U.S. court.

This latter risk arose in the Softwood Lumber case where Canada and the Canadian lumber industry pursued a strategy of challenging an affirmative U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) threat of injury determination under both U.S. law and the WTO. Canada won on both fronts. However, the U.S. Government claimed that the new ITC determination made to “comply” with the WTO ruling allowed the United States to keep its antidumping and countervailing duty orders in place even in the face of an order requiring the ITC to make a negative determination as a matter of U.S. domestic law. The U.S. Court of International Trade (“CIT”) eventually struck down that claim in Tembec, Inc. v. United States, USCIT Slip Op. 06-152 (Oct. 13, 2006). However, by the time the court’s decision became final, the United States had collected billions more in estimated antidumping and countervailing duties and Canada had acquiesced in a settlement that deprived the court decision of precedential effect.

Were the United States to try again what the CIT struck down in Tembec, it surely would fail again. That conclusion, however, does not mean the United States might not try, and for the time being, with the Tembec decision having been denied precedential effect, the United States could again indulge in the principle that justice delayed is justice denied (i.e., the delay and continued collection of cash deposits would force a settlement unfavorable to the respondents).

There are cases that should be taken to the WTO, both by governments and by private companies. More often, however, challenges to market protectionism should be brought in U.S. courts. In some cases, such as the U.S. Commerce Department’s use of a technique known as “zeroing” to find dumping and to inflate antidumping margins, the WTO offers the best chance of obtaining relief. The law does not require choosing forums, but it is prudent to do so, and particularly wise to overcome the reflex suggesting that the WTO could be a panacea for unfair protectionism.

 

             当企业看到他们进军美国市场受美国政府贸易救济措施阻挠时,不管是反倾销、反补贴还是特保措施,他们都会要求本国政府在世贸组织针对这些措施采取行动。同时许多政府也认为应当在世贸组织表达他们对美国政策的不满,而不是在美国法庭采取行动。但是,无论是政府还是企业都应当首先考虑所得是否大于潜在代价。

             世贸组织争端解决机制旨在保护主权政府的正当权利,而不是为企业或行业协会解决贸易纠纷。只有政府才可使用这一机制,而且胜利也不能保证为政府带来极有价值的回报、也不会影响企业或行业协会。与此同时,企业或行业协会可能从美国法庭获得的、具有实际价值的判决则可能受世贸组织争端解决机制影响。

             世贸组织争端解决机制缺少补偿机制。因此,当世贸组织上诉机构裁定争端解决专家小组裁决有误时,上诉机构无法驳回裁决、让专家小组修改错误。在很多案件中,缺少补偿这一权威意味着如果上诉机构,哪怕就很小的错误,驳回专家小组裁决,裁决过程将就此终结、没有任何解决方案。

 

            因为缺少补偿机制,即使当上诉机构认定专家小组没有收集足够信息,上诉机构也无法收集更多信息。上诉机构无权超越已在案的信息。因此,上诉机构必须得出在案信息不充分的决定,只有如此,它才可拒绝就整个案件或是某些部分(大都是重要部分)做出裁决。

 

            即使当世贸组织认定美国的行为违背其入世承诺,这也不会为应诉政府和受影响企业带来很多实际利益。世贸惩罚机制通常包括惩罚其他行业,但除非这些惩罚足以让美国感到痛楚、从而采取行动,这一惩罚机制通常不能让争端关注的焦点产业受益。授权采取报复性惩罚措施的政府在挑选实施报复措施的产业时也必须密切关注国内政治,且常常发现不可能不损害某一行业的利益。总而言之,反倾销、反补贴案件产生的原因一般是某国认定他国以不公平价格或是补助价格过多向其输送产品,且该国无法向他国出口同等数量的同类产品。惩罚性措施——限制进口——决不会就这一产品展开。因此,该国政府可能会在付出政治代价的情况下报复了他国,但是企业通常得不到任何补偿。

 

            企业应考虑的另一因素是世贸行动是否会危及该企业通过在美国法院上诉获得更有意义的赔偿。就像世贸组织的胜利可增加在美国法庭获得胜利的可能性,世贸组织的失利也可影响该公司在美国法院上诉。在反倾销案件中这一危险更为明显,因为世贸组织的专家组成员大都是已卸任的、负责反倾销调查的政府官员。他们的训练和经验都集中在如何向出口到本国的产品征收惩罚性关税。他们不对出口企业持同情态度,也不习惯从出口商的角度去诠释法律。同时,虽然这不太显而易见,美国可利用世贸组织胜利挫败在美国法庭取得的胜利。

 

            在美加软木大战中,加拿大政府和企业决定同时利用美国法律和世贸组织章程以挑战美国国际贸易委员会的产业损害裁决。加拿大在两条战线都取得胜利。虽然根据美国法庭的判决,国际贸易委员会应做出未造成产业损害的裁决;但是美国政府声称美国国际贸易委员会根据世贸组织裁决修正的产业损害裁决允许美国维持反倾销、反补贴令。美国国际贸易法庭最终在加拿大Tembec公司对美国政府一案中宣判美国政府的这一说法无效。但是,当法庭做出最终判决时,美国已经征收了几十亿美金、估算的反倾销、反补贴税,加拿大也已与美国达成妥协,使得法庭胜利失去了案例法中的先例原则作用。

 

            假设美国再次寻求美国国际贸易法庭就同一焦点问题做出判决,她肯定会再次失败。但是这一结论并不说明美国不会再次尝试。目前看来,因为美国国际贸易法庭的判决失去了案例法中的先例原则作用,美国可以利用司法迟误意味着司法否定这一原则(司法迟误以及延续不断的反倾销、反补贴税迫使应诉方接受不利的和解)。

 

            政府和企业及行业协会的确应当通过世贸组织解决某些争端。但是,大多挑战市场保护主义的行动应当利用美国法庭。在一些案件中,如美国商务部使用“零合法”以抬高反补贴税,世贸组织是获得救助最好的场所。法律并没有对使用哪一场所作出要求,但是应谨慎选择,不把世贸组织当作抵制贸易保护主义的万灵药才是明智之举。

 

(翻译:朱晶)