RTA DISPUTES - EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

(1)   Court of Justice of the European Union

According to its official description, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) "interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries, and settles legal disputes between national governments and EU institutions. It can also, in certain circumstances, be used by individuals, companies or organisations to take action against an EU institution, if they feel it has somehow infringed their rights. . . .The CJEU is divided into 2 courts:

  • Court of Justice – deals with requests for preliminary rulings from national courts, certain actions for annulment and appeals.

  • General Court – rules on actions for annulment brought by individuals, companies and, in some cases, EU governments. In practice, this means that this court deals mainly with competition law, State aid, trade, agriculture, trade marks."

The respective court websites provide rulings and opinions in disputes brought before these courts. For further information, please consult the extensive secondary literature on the CJEU and its predecessor institutions. 

(2) EU Free Trade Agreements:

(A) EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement:

Korea - Compliance with labor commitments in Chapter 13 of EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement

  • 18 December 2018: EU requests formal consultations with Republic of Korea concerning labor commitments of EU-Korea trade agreement; EU press release and consultation request. Concerns expressed included respect for International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental principles of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and Korea failure to ratify four fundamental ILO Conventions: two concerning freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and two concerning forced labor. Consultations took place on 21 January 2019 in Seoul.

  • 4 July 2019: EU requests a panel (Links: EU press release; panel request) to examine issues not satisfactorily addressed during consultations, including four provisions in the Korean Trade Union Act:

    1. Article 2(1) definition of “worker”, which excludes some categories of self-employed persons s well as dismissed and unemployed persons from the scope of the freedom of association.

    2. Article 2(4)(d) stating that an organization shall not be considered as a union if persons who do not fall under the definition of “worker” can join.

    3. Article 23(1) stating that trade union officials may only be elected from among the members of the trade union.

    4. Article 12(1) - (3) (combined with Article 2(4) and Article 10) providing for discretionary certification procedure for establishment of trade unions.

EU claims that measures (1) - (3), and the discretion provided by measure (4), are inconsistent with Korea’s commitments under FTA Article 13.4.3 to respect, promote and realize in its laws and practices, the principle of freedom of association.

EU further claims that Korea committed to make continued and sustained efforts toward ratifying fundamental ILO Conventions, but 8 years after entry into force of the FTA, Korea has still not ratified four ILO fundamental Conventions and has not made continued and sustained efforts to ratify: (1) ILO C87 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948; (2) ILO C98 Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949; (3) ILO C29 Forced Labor Convention, 1930; and (4) ILO C105 Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957.

(B) EU-Ukraine Association Agreement:

Ukraine - Export Restrictions on Unprocessed Wood and Sawn Wood:

  • 16 January 2019: EU requests formal consultations with Ukraine under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement concerning Ukraine’s failure to eliminate its ban on exports of unprocessed wood. EU press release; consultation request.

  • 20 June 2019: EC requests a panel under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in its dispute concerning Ukraine’s export ban on unprocessed wood. Links: EU press release; EU panel request.

  • See also 4 July 2019 blogpost by Iulianna Romanchyshyna on the International Economic Law & Policy Blog, discussing the Ukrainian measures, the EU claims, and possible Ukrainian defenses.

(3)   EFTA Court

The Court of Justice of the European Free Trade Association States (the EFTA Court) fulfils the judicial function within the EFTA system, interpreting the Agreement on the European Economic Area with regard to the EFTA States party to the Agreement (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The EFTA Court's website is at http://www.eftacourt.int/ 

(4)    Israel- U.S. Free Trade Agreement:

US - Machine Tools from Israel:  

  • In 1986, the US imposed import quotas on machine tools from Japan and Taiwan under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Starting in 1988, the Israeli machine tool company Sharnoa exported machine tools to the US which were largely assembled from parts from Taiwan. US Customs ruled that these machine tools were products of Israel, the US administering authority counted the machine tool imports against Taiwan's import quota, and Israel brought this dispute. (Wall Street Journal, 11 Oct 1991)  A panel was convened consisting of Prof. Donald McRae (chair), Joseph Greenwald and Prof. Joseph H.H. Weiler. The panel's report to the parties is not publicly available. The dispute was settled informally after the panel report.

(5)   African Regional Courts: 

Further links will be added soon to the websites of the regional courts and regional dispute settlement institutions of African regional trade agreements, and their best-known decisions. For information on African RTA dispute settlement I recommend James Thuo Gathii's African Regional Trade Agreements as Legal Regimes (Cambridge, 2013). 

Last edited:  5 July 2019