The US has been given nine more days to abide by a WTO ruling that its steel import duties are illegal, postponing the threat of retaliatory sanctions, trade officials said yesterday.
WTO states had been due to meet on Monday to rubber-stamp the verdict of the trade body's highest court upholding the complaint of the EU, Japan, China, Brazil and a number of other countries against the duties.
The meeting will now be held on Dec. 10.
The EU has said that it is ready to hit Washington with some US$2.2 billion in sanctions within five days of the WTO's approving the court ruling, if the duties are not removed.
"If the delay allows the US time to withdraw the protectionist measures, that is better for everybody," said Fabian Delcros, a spokesman for the EU in Geneva.
The decision to postpone came at the request of the US, which said that it had not been expecting the meeting to take place before Dec. 10, the legal deadline for WTO states to ratify the court decision.
An EU trade official said the US had asked the eight parties that complained about the US tariffs to the WTO last year -- the EU, Brazil, China, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea and Switzerland -- to postpone the formal adoption.
But it comes at a time when there are mounting signs from Washington that the Bush administration is preparing to scrap or at least roll back the tariffs which were imposed last year to help the country's struggling steel industry.
Earlier this month the WTO's highest tribunal ruled against the US tariffs,which US President George W. Bush imposed last year.
Bush said temporary duties of up to 30 percent were needed to protect ailing steel mills as they restructured.