From today's WTO panel report in Canada - Renewable Energy/Feed-In Tariff:
7.7 Throughout these proceedings, however, the complainants have emphasized that in contesting the WTO-consistency of the challenged measures, they do not question the legitimacy of the objectives pursued by the Government of Ontario through the FIT Programme of reducing carbon emissions and promoting the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources. In particular, Japan has explained that "Japan does not take issue with Ontario's stated goal of enhancing renewable energy generation"39 or "the government's intervention as such to internalize the positive externalities of renewable energy generation technologies"40. Likewise, the European Union does not "contest the general purpose of the FIT Program, as helping to promote electricity supply from renewable energy sources", highlighting that "[s]uch a purpose is legitimately valid and … WTO Members can and should actively support it"41 . What the complainants call into question is limited to the alleged trade-distortive element of the challenged measures, which they identify to be the "Minimum Required Domestic Content Level" given effect through the FIT Programme and the FIT and microFIT Contracts. According to the complainants, this aspect of the challenged measures affords a form of WTO-inconsistent protection to producers of certain types of equipment used to generate electricity from solar and wind energy ("renewable energy generation equipment") that are based in Ontario to the detriment of competing industries in other WTO Members, and should therefore be eliminated42. Thus, as Japan has declared 43, these disputes cannot be properly characterized as "trade and environment" disputes, but rather, they should be thought of as "trade and investment" disputes.
I agree that this is not a "trade and environment" dispute. But is it a "trade and investment" dispute? Isn't it just a "protectionism" dispute? Granted, there is some impact on investment, but doesn't protectionism always or often have that effect?
But the real highlight of the report is the discussion of "benefit," which led to a dissent. No quick summary of the issues at this point -- still trying to digest it.