WTO Offers 400 Audience Slots to Public for First Open Panel Hearings Next Month

18 August 2005

Reproduced with permission from Daily Report for Executives, No. 156, pp. A-2 – A-3 (Aug. 15, 2005). Copyright 2005 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)

GENEVA – The World Trade Organization announced Aug. 12 that it will allocate 400 places, on a first-come, first-served basis, for the public to observe the global trade body’s first ever open hearing in a dispute case scheduled take place in mid-September.

The WTO said applications will be accepted from now until all 400 places have been allocated, and at the latest, midnight Geneva time on Aug. 26. This date was selected to enable participants to make arrangements to attend, and because of official holidays in Geneva in the week preceding the event.

Applicants are required to fill in an application form, available on the WTO Web site, and send via e-mail to: public-hearing@wto.org. Successful applicants will receive e-mail confirmation in advance of the proceedings.

The WTO said that only those with reserved seats will be admitted, and no audio/video recording will be permitted in the viewing room. The announcement also stated that the WTO cannot offer any financial support or assistance for accommodation, flight arrangements, and visas in relation to attending the event.

In a communication circulated Aug. 2, South Korea’s deputy permanent representative to the WTO, Cho Tae-yul, chairman of the WTO panel adjudicating a dispute over the European Union’s continued ban on hormone-treated beef, informed members that the panel proceedings, scheduled for Sept. 12-15, will be open for public observation through a closed-circuit TV broadcast.

The panel’s meetings with third parties, however, will remain closed due to opposition from some third parties to the case, including Brazil, China, and India, according to trade sources.

The initiative came at the request of the three parties to the dispute–the EU, the United States, and Canada–in an effort to improve transparency in WTO dispute proceedings.

The EU is challenging the continued imposition by the United States and Canada of more than $125 million in annual punitive duties on select EU imports as a result of the EU’s failure to comply with an earlier WTO ruling against its ban on hormone-treated beef. The panel was established on Feb. 17, with the three members of the panel appointed on June 6.

By Esther Lam

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In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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