Mexico tax measures on soft drinks and other beverages


Article XX(d) of the GATT 1994



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Article XX(d) of the GATT 1994


      1. Mexico appeals the Panel's finding that the measures at issue are not justified pursuant to Article XX(d) of the GATT 1994. In addition, Mexico requests the Appellate Body to complete the analysis and find that its tax measures are justified under Article XX(d) of the GATT 1994, because the measures are necessary "to secure compliance" by the United States of its obligations under the NAFTA.

      2. Mexico asserts that the Panel erred in finding that the measures at issue are not designed "to secure compliance" within the meaning of Article XX(d). According to Mexico, this finding is based on an erroneous interpretation of the terms "to secure compliance" as involving enforcement action within a  domestic  legal system. Mexico argues that there is no basis to exclude action taken to enforce  international  treaty obligations from the scope of Article XX(d). Mexico adds that, in the broader context of international law, countermeasures are measures aimed at securing compliance with international obligations. Mexico further submits that the Panel erred by equating the concept of "enforcement" with that of "coercion". In Mexico's view, the Panel's effort to distinguish between actions at the domestic level and at the international level based on its understanding of the concept of coercion in this dispute has no textual basis, because Article XX(d) simply does not refer to the use of coercion.

      3. Moreover, Mexico asserts that the Panel erred by confusing the issue of the "design" of the measure under Article XX(d) with the issue of its "outcome".8 Rather than examining whether Mexico's measures were put in place in order to secure the United States' compliance with its NAFTA obligations, the Panel considered the effectiveness of those measures. Mexico emphasizes that "even if the outcome of a measure is completely uncertain or unpredictable, the measure in question can, nevertheless be 'designed to secure compliance with laws and regulations' within the meaning of Article XX(d)".9 Contrary to the Panel's finding, the issue of the likely outcome of a given measure is not legally relevant to the assessment of the design of the measure under Article XX(d). Thus, Mexico takes issue with the Panel's finding that the "uncertain outcome of international countermeasures is a reason for disqualifying them as measures eligible for consideration under Article XX(d)".10 Mexico notes, in this regard, that nothing in the text of Article XX(d) suggests that any measure is a priori ineligible as a measure "to secure compliance with laws and regulations" on the basis of its "uncertain outcome".

      4. Turning to the meaning of the terms "laws and regulations" in Article XX(d), Mexico notes that the Panel's interpretation of these terms is based on the erroneous conclusions reached by the Panel with respect to the terms "to secure compliance". Mexico submits that the words "laws" and "regulations" are expressly qualified in other provisions of the covered agreements; the absence of qualifying language in Article XX(d) thus supports the view that the terms are not limited to  domestic laws or regulations, but include international agreements. Mexico adds that a review of the Article XX exceptions reveals that only three—(paragraphs (c), (g), and (i))—are, expressly or by implication, concerned with an activity that would occur within the territory of the Member seeking to justify its measures. This position, according to Mexico, is supported by the Appellate Body's findings in  US – Shrimp (Article 21.5 – Malaysia).11

      5. Mexico further requests, in the event the Appellate Body should reverse the Panel's conclusion, that it complete the Panel's analysis and find that the Mexican measures are "necessary" within the meaning of Article XX(d) and meet the requirements of the chapeau of that Article. According to Mexico, the uncontested facts and evidence in the Panel record, and the Panel's acknowledgement that Mexico's measures have "attracted the attention" of the United States, provide an ample basis on which to complete the analysis and conclude that the measures are "necessary" within the meaning of Article XX(d).

      6. Mexico observes that, before the Panel, the United States could not identify any alternative measure that Mexico could and should have used in order to attain its legitimate objective. It further explains that the fact that a measure does not or has not yet achieved its objective does not mean that it is not "necessary" within the meaning of Article XX(d). It may mean that it is insufficient to secure compliance, or that it is insufficient to secure immediate compliance, but can do so over time; however, it says nothing about whether the measure is "necessary". Moreover, Mexico submits that the evidence on the record demonstrates that the measures at issue have contributed to securing compliance in the circumstances of this case by changing the dynamics of the NAFTA dispute and forcing the United States to pay attention to Mexico's grievances, and also contradicts the Panel's finding that Mexico's measures do not contribute to securing compliance in this dispute.

      7. As regards the chapeau of Article XX of the GATT 1994, Mexico asserts that its measures neither arbitrarily nor unjustifiably discriminate between countries where the same conditions prevail. Rather than constituting "arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination", the measures constitute "limited sectoral retaliation in the relevant market segment (i.e., the sweeteners market)."12 Nor can the measures be said to be a "disguised restriction on [international] trade" because they constitute "a proportionate, legitimate and legally justified response to actions and omissions of the United States"13, and, furthermore, the measures have been published.

      8. Finally, Mexico argues that the Panel, "separately and in addition"14 to the previous errors, failed to make "an objective assessment of the facts", as required by Article 11 of the DSU, in finding that "Mexico has not established that its measures contribute to securing compliance in the circumstances of this case."15 According to Mexico, the Panel's finding is based solely on the Panel's view that attracting the attention of the United States is not equivalent to securing compliance with a law or regulation and ignores that "achieving the objectives sought by the countermeasures can take time".16



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