The US, the EU and six trading nations unexpectedly locked in talks at the WTO in Geneva on Wednesday over sanctions against the US on anti-dumping measures, a trade source said.
The WTO had been expected to give the green light on Wednesday to a list of US products that could be targeted by millions of dollars' worth of sanctions, after it allowed the move in August.
But the US, and seven of the trading powers that had complained about the offending US anti-dumping law -- the EU, Brazil, Canada, India, Japan, Mexico and South Korea -- had delayed the move, the source said.
The parties were holding unusual last-minute consultations on the sidelines of the meeting of the organization's Disputes Settlement Body in Geneva, which could run into yesterday, he added.
The WTO, after seven months of arbitration, on Aug. 31 allowed the seven trading powers to levy sanctions amounting to 72 percent of the sums reaped from the illicit US anti-dumping law, the Byrd amendment.
Trade officials emphasized that Wednesday's delay would make no difference to the penalty.
"The United States wants to clarify some areas of our request for retaliation, but that does not call into question our right to retaliate," Fabian Delcros, a spokesman for the EU commission's delegation in Geneva said.
The EU has submitted a list of US products including textiles, electric-powered tools, paper goods, shoes, photocopiers and sweet corn, for clearance by the WTO.
Under the 2000 law known as the Byrd amendment, the US government redistributes anti-dumping duties to the US companies that allege dumping, or the selling abroad at less than the market price in the domestic market.
US companies gained about US$561 million as a result of the law in 2001 and 2002.
The seven plaintiffs had complained to the world trade body because the US Congress had not repealed the legislation -- which the WTO had condemned as incompatible with its rules -- before a deadline of Dec. 27, 2003.
progress in congress
US trade ambassador Linnet Deily told the meeting in Geneva that the US administration "will continue to work with Congress to achieve further progress."
Deily also announced that the US Senate voted on Nov. 19 to repeal another anti-dumping law dating back to 1916, which the WTO had ruled to be illegal three years ago.
But the EU and Japan said on Wednesday that the abolition may not be sufficient.
They told the WTO meeting that they also needed to ensure that the legislation, which allowed US companies to sue foreign companies for dumping -- was retroactive, to stop any ongoing lawsuits.