In 2016, dispute panels found that U.S. policy changes that year brought U.S. tuna labeling regulations into alignment with WTO rules, after the DSB previously ruled that U.S. tuna labeling measures were not compliant with WTO rules. Mexico appealed the later ruling.
Mexico has alleged that U.S. labeling of tuna as “dolphin-safe” is discriminatory.
The first dispute in the case was filed in 2008.
At the core of the dispute are tuna catching practices by Mexican fishers whereby they chase and encircle dolphins with a purse seine net to catch tuna in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, as schools of tuna tend to aggregate and swim beneath certain species of dolphins in that region, according to the AB report.
The ruling means that the U.S. will be spared from $163.2 million in tariff retaliation authorized by the WTO in April 2017, conditional upon WTO adjudicators finding noncompliance of the United States’ labeling regime.
“The WTO has finally confirmed — as we’ve said all along — that U.S. dolphin-safe labeling requirements are consistent with WTO rules,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement after the report was released Friday. “After more than 10 years and multiple erroneous WTO reports, the latest compliance reports have finally reached the right conclusion, ending this long-standing dispute. The WTO dispute settlement system should not be used to impose new obligations on WTO members, and it should not encourage countries to use aggressive litigation tactics to attack fair and neutral environmental measures.”