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Who Defines Members' Security Interest in the WTO?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 March 2004


The European Community (EC) has recently announced its decision to begin dispute-resolution procedures in the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the United States (US) because of the latter's passage of the so-called ‘Helms-Burton’ law, which tightens the sanctions against Cuba by means of extraterritorial application. This will, in all probability, offer the WTO an ideal opportunity to define the limits of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade's (GATT) security exception. The security exception, contained in GATT Article XXI, is also included in other agreements annexed to the Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO Agreement), such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). It provides an exception from all GATT (as well as GATS and TRIPs) obligations, including the all-important ‘most-favoured-nation’ non-discrimination rule. The security interests at issue must be those of a political, rather than an economic, nature. It should be noted that because there is no human rights and democracy exception to the GATT or other agreements annexed to the WTO Agreement, trade restrictions that are based either in whole or in part on these concerns, such as the measures against Cuba, are usually justified on the basis of the security exception.

© 1996 Kluwer Law International

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