Safeguards and adjustment assistance policies
Since the genesis of the GATT in 1947, the multilateral trade regime has provided for unilateral opt-outs from trade liberalization commitments in circumstances involving unforeseen developments causing serious injury to domestic producers in the importing country. Between 1995 and 2017, 331 safeguard initiations, 486 countervailing duty initiations, and 5529 dumping actions were reported to the WTO.1 While the “safeguards” regime has been much less frequently invoked than the other two major trade remedy regimes (especially anti-dumping), it has given rise to a number of high profile recent disputes.
Article XIX of the GATT sets out the basic safeguard regime:
If, as a result of unforeseen developments and of the effect of the obligations incurred by a contracting party under this Agreement, including tariff concessions, any product is being imported into the territory of that contracting party in such increased quantities and under such conditions as to cause or threaten serious injury to domestic producers in that territory of like or directly competitive products, the contracting party shall be free, in respect of such product, and to the extent and for such time as may be necessary to prevent or remedy such injury, to suspend the obligation in whole or in part or to withdraw or modify the concession.
Article XIX goes on to provide that before any contracting party shall take action pursuant to this provision, it shall give notice to the contracting parties at large and afford those contracting parties having a substantial...
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