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For example, the US challenged (to the WTO) every retaliatory measure against its aluminium and steel tariffs it raised under national security considerations. These cases are DS557 to DS561; these are all at panel level already, following US requests (i.e. the initial consultation phase failed to resolve any of these.)

Presumably the WTO panel(s) will have to address the core issue in these five cases, i.e. whether the US invocation of the national security exception (GATT article XXI) was warranted. (A WTO panel did reserve the rights to review such invocations in the recently adjudicated DS512 between Russia and Ukraine.)

My question here is: how does the WTO deal with such cases where the same underlying issue has to be decided by multiple panels? Do they have some procedure for merging the proceedings? Otherwise the 5 panels could decide different things on the same core issue (of US invocation of national security on steel and aluminum)...

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The WTO can create unique panels for dealing with multiple related disputes. It has done so for instance in DS431 to DS433, all of which involved China's export restrictions on rare earths (complaints were from the US, EU and Japan.)

At its meeting on 23 July 2012, the DSB established a single panel pursuant to Article 9.1 of the DSU to examine this dispute, DS432 and DS433.

The Appellate Body (because China appealed the panel decisions) also issued an omnibus judgement:

On 25 April 2014, China appealed the panel reports in the other two disputes, DS432 and DS433, brought by the European Union and Japan, respectively. The Appellate Body consolidated the appellate proceedings in DS431, DS432, and DS433 before a single Appellate Body Division, harmonized the timetable of the three appellate proceedings, and held one oral hearing for all three proceedings. On 24 June 2014, upon expiry of the 60-day period specified in Article 17.5 of the DSU for DS432 and DS433, the Appellate Body informed the DSB that the Appellate Body Reports in all three consolidated appeals will be circulated to WTO Members no later than Thursday, 7 August 2014. The Appellate Body issued three Appellate Body Reports in one single document on 7 August 2014.

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