November 26, 2004

U.S. to Comply With WTO Trade Sanctions

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration indicated Friday that it would live with punitive new duties imposed by the World Trade Organization against U.S. products, even as it fights relentlessly to protect America's interests.

"We are continuing to work with Congress to bring the U.S. into compliance and we are consulting with our trading partners on these efforts," said Richard Mills, spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. Officials already notified the WTO that "we intend to comply with our international obligations in this matter."

"It's important to remember that these issues do not affect the ability of the United States to continue enforcing our trade laws to make sure Americans are being treated fairly," Mills said, after the WTO in Geneva approved new sanctions aimed at retaliating against American exports.

The WTO acted because the U.S. Congress has not yet repealed a law that America's trading rivals consider anticompetitive and protectionist.

U.S. exports of cod, textiles, glassware, mobile homes, apples and other goods face new tariffs as a result of the decision by the WTO, an international trade body.

The decision was expected. The trading dispute centers on a 2000 law, named for Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., which lets the U.S. government fine foreign companies that it judges to be selling goods here at below-market prices, with the proceeds going to U.S. companies. The law was written with the steel industry in mind.

The WTO backed claims that the amendment breaks trade laws by punishing exporters to the United States twice because they are first fined, and then those fines are passed on to their competitors.