EU moves closer to sanctions on U.S. exports

EU moves closer to sanctions on U.S. exports

The European Union today moved closer to imposing trade sanctions on hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. exports in a bid to force Washington to axe legislation that gives customs duties to American companies that have that have complained that foreign rivals sold products below cost.

The 15-nation EU and eight other major trading countries requested authorization from the World Trade Organization to impose punitive import duties on U.S. products after Washington missed the Geneva-based body's Dec. 27 deadline to withdraw the legislation.

The WTO ruled in 2002 that the so-called Byrd amendment violated world trade rules by giving an undue incentive to American firms to initiate anti-dumping cases. All other U.S. import duties go to its Treasury.

U.S. Customs disbursed $330 million in 2002 taking anti-dumping duties paid to U.S. companies to more than $800 million since the Byrd amendment was passed by Congress in October 2000.

EU firms paid around $70 million last year to U.S. rivals -- mainly on ball bearing shipments -- and Japanese firms paid $108 million.

The WTO is expected to authorize sanctions on Jan. 23 but because of various procedural steps they are unlikely to take effect until May or June at the earliest.

The other complainants are Brazil, China, Chile, Canada, India, Mexico, Japan and South Korea.