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Sat, Nov 27, 2004 - Page 12 News List

WTO expected to approve tariffs to counter US levies

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

The World Trade Organization (WTO) was expected to approve the imposition of US$150 million in trade sanctions against the US by the EU, Japan, Canada and four other countries yesterday, in response to a US anti-dumping law that was declared illegal last year.

As a result, tariffs could be imposed on US exports of steel products, textiles, machinery, footwear and some food like corn.

The law, known as the Byrd Amendment, states that levies raised from anti-dumping tariffs collected on cheap imports to the US should be distributed to the US companies that compete against the imports. The seven trading partners of the US complained that this punished those whose goods are imported into the US twice -- once with the levy and again by giving a financial gain to US competitors.

The figure of US$150 million was based on an estimate of the damage caused to importers by the Byrd Amendment.

Japan and the EU are the hardest hit by the Byrd Amendment. Japan is claiming about US$80 million in damages, and the EU is claiming about US$50 million. The EU has drawn up a list of 80 products it might impose the sanctions on. Japan is also said to be considering imposing sanctions on steel products.

The WTO's approval for sanctions was to have been granted on Wednesday, but US negotiators questioned some of the terminology in the demands submitted by the EU and others, a person close to the negotiations said. But the wording of the demands remained unchanged after US officials discussed them with the seven complainants on Thursday, this person said.

"Whatever the Americans' concerns were, the solution didn't entail changing the documents at all," the person said.

Peter Mandelson, the EU's new trade commissioner, said earlier this week that the EU union would impose sanctions early next year if the Byrd Amendment was not repealed.

His spokeswoman, Claude Veron-Reville, said Thursday that the EU remains on course to impose sanctions.

"Nothing has changed," she said, referring to the delay in the WTO's approval.

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