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I ran into this provision when reading a WTO agreement and wasn't sure of its meaning.

These timetables shall provide for all measures referred to in paragraph 1 to be phased out or brought into conformity with this Agreement within a period not exceeding four years after the date of entry into force of the WTO Agreement, subject to not more than one specific measure per importing Member, the duration of which shall not extend beyond 31 December 1999.

I think the bold part means that, even though measures inconsistent with the rules need to be phased out within four years (that is, by the end of 1998), each importing Member is still allowed to maintain no more than one specific measure up until Dec. 31, 1999. That is to say, the phrase "subject to" is followed by an exception. Is my understanding correct?

In case it helps, here's the rest of the provision:

Any such exception must be mutually agreed between the Members directly concerned and notified to the Committee on Safeguards for its review and acceptance within 90 days of the entry into force of the WTO Agreement. The Annex to this Agreement indicates a measure which has been agreed as falling under this exception.

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    No, I don't think it's right to say "subject to" is followed by an exception. What follows "subject to" is an additional restriction, not an "exception" to the basic restrictions as formulated by the agreement. Sep 7 '21 at 13:11
  • Keeping a protective measure (if approved) is an exception to phasing out or bringing into conformity, yes.
    – Lambie
    Sep 7 '21 at 14:52
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Here is the relevant part of the text:

WTO + safeguards

These timetables shall provide for all measures referred to in paragraph 1 to be phased out or brought into conformity with this Agreement within a period not exceeding four years after the date of entry into force of the WTO Agreement, subject to not more than one specific measure per importing Member 5, the duration of which shall not extend beyond 31 December 1999. Any such exception must be mutually agreed between the Members directly concerned and notified to the Committee on Safeguards for its review and acceptance within 90 days of the entry into force of the WTO Agreement. The Annex to this Agreement indicates a measure which has been agreed as falling under this exception.

And these safeguards are explained here (safeguard measure) for those of us like me who didn't understand the context:

Safeguard measures A WTO member may take a “safeguard” action (i.e., restrict imports of a product temporarily) to protect a specific domestic industry from an increase in imports of any product which is causing, or which is threatening to cause, serious injury to the industry.

Safeguard measures were always available under the GATT (Article XIX). However, they were infrequently used, and some governments preferred to protect their industries through “grey area” measures (“voluntary” export restraint arrangements on products such as cars, steel and semiconductors).

The WTO Safeguards Agreement broke new ground in prohibiting “grey area” measures and setting time limits (“sunset clause”) on all safeguard actions.

______________________ *** ________________________

So, the idea is that WTO members have to either phase out or bring into conformity their protective mechanisms within four years. However, each WTO member may seek approval for one exception to this. If approved, they could continue to use a protective measure for one industry up until 31 Dec 1999.

For example, a WTO member (country) might have a protected steel industry. And they could seek approval for keeping whatever measure they used to protect themselves from steel imports in place until 31 Dec 1999. But they could not keep two measures in place. For example, one to protect their car industry and another their steel industry.

Conclusion: subject to one specify measure really means: unless they have received approval to keep one specific industry-protecting measure in place until that later date. So, yes, it is an exception to the rule for keeping in place a single protective measure until Dec 1999.

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  • Thank you so much!
    – Jiani
    Sep 8 '21 at 8:31
  • @Jiani You are welcome to choose my answer. :)
    – Lambie
    Sep 8 '21 at 14:54

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