WTO SAYS U.S. MUST CHANGE LAW
Ruling imperils companies' collection of duty money paid by importers
A U.S. law that has provided millions of dollars to several chemical makers violates international trade rules, a World Trade Organization appeals panel said on Jan. 16.
Unless the U.S. changes the law, exporters may face retaliatory duties in several major markets, including the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. Options include repeal of the law.
The disputed law addresses duties paid by foreign companies that either dump their goods--sell them at less than market price--in the U.S. market or receive unfair government subsidies. Under the law, U.S. companies can collect at least part of such duties. According to Customs Service figures, six chemical makers together pocketed $6.7 million under this statute in 2001, the only year for which data are available (C&EN, Jan. 13, page 33).
The Continued Dumping & Subsidy Offset Act of 2000 was tacked onto an agriculture funding bill by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.). It is known as the Byrd amendment.
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the EU, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and Thailand challenged the Byrd amendment at WTO. Arbiters last year agreed the law was illegal under global trade rules. The U.S. appealed the decision but lost.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick says the Bush Administration is reviewing the ruling "to assess the best compliance options." Administration officials will work with members of Congress on possible legislation to change the law, Zoellick says.
Pierre S. Pettigrew, Canada's international trade minister, says, "The amendment gives U.S. producers an unjustified and potentially trade-distorting advantage by offering them an incentive to file for antidumping and countervailing duty investigations since they would receive a share of the duty."