Bloomberg News

U.S. Appeals WTO Ruling in Mexico Dolphin-Safe Tuna Dispute

January 26, 2012

(Updates with comment from Mexican economy ministry in fifth paragraph.)

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration is appealing a World Trade Organization ruling that U.S. curbs on imports of Mexican tuna, which protect dolphins, are more restrictive than needed, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said today.

Sales of Mexican tuna to the U.S. have been limited since 1991 under Commerce Department provisions that determine when products can be labeled as dolphin-safe. The U.S. adopted the rules in response to complaints that Mexico’s fishing techniques hurt dolphins. Mexico said that its tuna-catching practices and regulations meet global standards.

The U.S. and Mexico require inspectors aboard tuna vessels during fishing trips. Both nations are members of the Inter- American Tropical Tuna Commission, which helps enforce international dolphin-protection standards. The WTO judges in their Sept. 15 ruling also rejected Mexico’s claim that “dolphin-safe” labeling provisions are discriminatory.

“Our dolphin-safe labeling measures for tuna products provide information for American consumers as they make food- purchasing decisions for their families,” Andrea Mead, press secretary for the trade office, said today in an e-mailed statement. “Our decision to appeal the WTO ruling in this case demonstrates the commitment of the United States to our dolphin- safe labeling measures.”

Mexico is reviewing the arguments the U.S. filed today with the WTO and plans to file a counter-appeal within five days, the nation’s economy ministry said today in a statement. The government also plans to ask the WTO to reconsider its ruling against Mexico’s claim that the labeling provisions are discriminatory, the ministry said.

The dolphin-safe provisions “are more trade-restrictive than necessary to achieve a legitimate objective, taking into account the risks that non-fulfillment would create,” the WTO judges said in a statement announcing their ruling.

Mexico filed its complaint against the U.S. at the WTO in October 2008.

--Editors: Steve Geimann, Daniel Enoch

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Martin in Washington at emartin21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net


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