The ACWL gives legal advice on all procedural and substantive issues arising under WTO law. This legal advice is provided free of charge.
The opinions provided by the ACWL can be divided into three categories.
The first comprises opinions on legal issues arising in WTO decision making and negotiations. These legal opinions enhance the capacity of developing countries to pursue their interests within the complex institutional framework of the WTO and to become active participants in WTO bodies. For example, the ACWL has advised developing countries and LDCs on legal issues arising in their trade policy reviews and in WTO committees such as the TBT and SPS Committees.
The ACWL also provides advice on legal aspects of proposals submitted in the context of the Doha Development Round negotiations.
The second category of legal opinions concerns measures taken or contemplated by the Member or LDC seeking the advice. These legal opinions help these countries to realise their trade policy objectives in a manner consistent with WTO law and to avoid unnecessary disputes.
They are often sought by Members or LDCs faced with internal disagreement as to the consistency of a proposed measure with WTO law.
For example, the ACWL has provided advice to Members and LDCs on the WTO-consistency of domestic tax measures, tariffs, subsidies, anti-dumping and other trade remedy investigations, sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures, intellectual property protection, services regulations and proposed regional trade agreements.
The ACWL is in a unique position to provide a neutral, objective assessment of the WTO legal issues arising in such situations.
The third category of legal opinions concerns measures of another WTO Member that the developing country or LDC seeking the advice is considering challenging under the WTO dispute settlement procedures.
For example, the ACWL has provided legal opinions on the WTO-consistency of technical regulations, SPS measures, import licensing requirements, and anti-dumping, countervailing duty and safeguard measures.
In these cases, the ACWL’s opinions permit the developing country or LDC to assess the chances of prevailing in a dispute settlement proceeding on the basis of a legal analysis prepared by an institution that is neither issue-driven nor profit-making.
In accordance with the Schedule of Fees set out in Annex IV of the Agreement Establishing the ACWL, the ACWL provides advice to its Members and to the LDCs free of charge up to a maximum number of hours to be determined by the Management Board. Since the Management Board has not decided to impose a maximum number of hours, all legal opinions are presently provided free of charge.