Statement by Canada on practices concerning the use of flexible arrangements in dispute settlement proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic (job/dsb/1/add.13)
18 December 2020
- Thank you Mr. Chairperson,
- The statement that Canada delivers today on this agenda item is made on behalf of the following Members: Australia; Brazil; Canada; Colombia; Ecuador; the European Union; Guatemala; Hong Kong, China; New Zealand; Peru; the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; Singapore; Switzerland; Ukraine; and the United Kingdom.
- All of these Members have already indicated their intention to endorse the practice document on practices concerning the use of flexible arrangements in dispute settlement proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic. This practice document has been circulated under document symbol JOB/DSB/1/Add.13.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has had terrible consequences around the world on human life and activity. It has also significantly affected the functioning of the WTO, including its dispute settlement system.
- Understandably, authorities have had to set out restrictions regarding international travel as well as in-person meetings. WTO Members have had to adjust to these challenging circumstances to enable our work to move forward in all WTO fora, and so has the WTO as an organization.
- This is also true in the context of dispute settlement, where panels and parties have had to adapt. We have seen such adaptation in several disputes, in which panels have established procedures to allow flexible arrangements, including virtual and hybrid panel meetings. The practice document recognizes the panels’ powers and responsibilities in that regard, in line with the principle of prompt settlement of disputes.
- Through the practice document presented to the DSB today, endorsing Members want to support the effective functioning of the dispute settlement system during the pandemic. The practice document sets out how we intend to act in dispute settlement proceedings in which we are involved during this challenging period.
- In the practice document, the endorsing Members indicate their intention to cooperate with the panel and the other party or parties to favor flexible arrangements, including recourse to virtual or hybrid hearings, to ensure that disputes can progress in a timely manner during the pandemic.
- The endorsing Members also indicate their intention to cooperate with the panel and the other party or parties, when considering flexible arrangements, to preserve the parties’ due process rights in the light of each dispute’s unique context and factors.
- Through cooperation with the panel and the other party or parties, the endorsing Members also intend to facilitate a level of participation in virtual or hybrid hearings that is as close as technically feasible to that of in-person hearings.
- We invite all WTO Members that support the prompt settlement of disputes during the COVID-19 pandemic, to consider endorsing the practice document. Support for the document would send a positive signal in these challenging times.
- We intend to circulate, by mid-January 2021, a revision to document JOB/DSB/1/Add.1/Rev.1, which will include a list of the WTO Members endorsing this practice document. We hope that by then our ranks will have grown.
- We look forward to further engaging with other delegations in that context.
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