As globalization enhances and capital and labour continue to find less barriers for its movement, trade relationships strengthens. With this strengthening, it comes uninvited disputes as markets and nations try to protect their domestic businesses and seek maximum profit from international markets through trade tariff imposition. Since there is always an imbalance in the commodities exchanged between nations, their economic status and financial health, there are disputes that are inevitable and shall continue to force the World Trade Organization (WTO) to continue to act as a neutral party for resolving such conflicts.
Tuna is considered as the chicken of the sea and is extravagantly popular in the western nations including the US and the EU or the EC, since it offers nutritious food at reasonable price with a reasonably good quality.
Thailand represents the third largest canned tuna producer and accounts for about 31% of the global trade volume of canned tuna. This informs in advance about the high dependence of Thailand’s economy and government revenues on canned tuna products and it would obviously not want it to deteriorate but only grown forward. Thailand’s top three canned tuna export partners are the US, the EC and Canada. The EC had signed comprehensive canned tuna trade agreements with the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP), which was executed on ratified on 3rd February 2000. However, as ACP countries enjoyed zero tariff on their canned tuna exports to the EC, Thailand was subjected to 24% import tariff by the EC (Xuto, 2017). This seemed discriminatory, as there was no valid and justifiable reason for the EC to hurt Thailand’s economy which was dependent on tuna exports, especially when ACP countries were not imposed any tariff by the EC. The move of imposing tariff on Thailand’s canned tuna exports was discriminatory and Thailand sought support under WTO guidelines through the negotiation channel.
Thailand utilised the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) prescribed by the WTO guidelines, and this procedure helped Thailand secure its justice. The DSU provides conciliation, mediation and neutral outlook to the dispute, which was sought by Thailand and EC was obliged to come to the table to revert its discriminatory move.