By SeafoodSource staff
Published on 24 January, 2014
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is establishing a new panel to investigate allegations by Mexico and eight other countries that certain U.S. Government regulations regarding "dolphin safe" tuna labeling are being used as an unofficial trade barrier.
According to background on the case on the WTO's website, the WTO agreed on 22 January to set up a panel to reexamine the dispute, which has been going on since Mexico first brought up the allegations in 2008, later joined by Canada, China, the European Union, Guatemala, Japan, Korea, Norway and Thailand. At the time, American officials had established guidelines requiring "dolphin safe" labeling for tuna caught in a responsible manner and sold to American consumers.
Mexico's arguments boiled down to two main allegations — that the regulations were not necessary, and that they were deliberately designed to create enough red tape for exporters to the United States that it gave an unfair advantage to domestic American tuna providers.
In 2009, and later during a 2012 appeal, the WTO examined the dispute and ultimately found that the regulations were necessary and helpful. It also found the regulations made it easier for domestic providers and some importers to label their products "dolphin safe," while at the same time making it harder for some exporting countries, including Mexico, to use the labeling system, thus making it harder for those exporters to sell tuna in the United States. In the end, the WTO required the United States modify the regulations to contain a fairer set of standards.
The WTO gave the United States until 13 July 2013 to make the changes, and while the U.S. government has claimed to have done so, Mexico pressed the WTO to establish the new panel to test the United States' compliance. Further details on future panel hearings and findings were not available.