The WTO Director-General has recently named the panel in the China Auto Parts case. It appears to be an excellent panel. It will be chaired by Julio Lacarte, a former Appellate Body member and veteran of at least six GATT or WTO panels. The other two panelists are Ujal Singh Bhatia, India’s ambassador to the WTO, and Wilhelm Meier, a Swiss diplomat. Meier has served on four previous WTO panels. (Of course, the WTO lacks the transparency to disclose the background or qualifications of panelists, but I was able to gather this information from published reports and the Worldtradelaw.net website.)
This is the first dispute against China and the first dispute claiming a violation of an accession agreement. The accession-related claims will be particularly interesting because the panel may be asked to decide whether an accession commitment is enforceable under the DSU and, if so, why. This is a more difficult conceptual question than may appear at first blush because the status of accession agreements is unclear. Are they WTO secondary law? Or are they constitutional changes to the WTO text that rise to the level of covered agreements.
I recently finished a paper that explores some of these issues. It is called “Mapping the Law of WTO Accession” and is available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=957651.