Two-Ocean Trade War Looms
US faces up to $2.2 billion in EU sanctions alone
GENEVA - 11/11/03 - A two-ocean trade war could erupt if the US fails to act on the decision by a World Trade Organization appeals panel that the US tariffs on imported steel enacted?in March of last year violate international trade law.
The US is facing up to $2.2 billion in European Union trade sanctions if it fails to comply with the ruling with South Korea saying that it would urge the US to "remove the duties" and would consider trade sanctions on the US if it fails to act.
Japan responded to the decision by saying it would be in talks over the next 30 days with other countries that have filed complaints against US steel tariffs "to decide what actions to take."
In addition to the European Union, Japan, and Korea, complaints were also filed with the WTO by Norway, Switzerland, China, New Zealand, and Brazil.
In a joint statement, the countries that brought the case said the US had "no other choice" but to remove the import duties without delay.
The decision by the three-member appeals panel, the EU's highest trade court, is final and Washington has been given until December 15 to act on the judgment.
In its 170-page report, the panel rejected the bulk of the US appeal of an earlier ruling that said the duties of up to 30% introduced last March by the Bush Administration violated WTO trade rules. The US insisted it was right to impose the tariffs for three years.
The Bush Administration issued a statement saying that it disagreed with the ruling but would study it carefully.
"We disagree with the overall WTO report and we are going to study it and look at its implications and go from there," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
McClellan would not offer a timetable for a White House decision on whether to rescind the tariffs or accept the sanctions.
"The steel safeguards the president imposed were to provide our domestic steel industry an opportunity to adjust to import competition'to give our domestic industry an opportunity to restructure and consolidate and become stronger and more competitive," he said.?"We believe [the safeguards] are fully consistent with WTO rules and we will carefully review those decisions."
The EU said it's retaliatory sanctions would slap 100% duties on some US-made products - from jeans and bowling alley equipment to pantyhose and Harley Davidson motorcycles - effectively pricing those goods out of the EU market.
Most of the affected imports would face tariffs of 30% on top of existing duties, though a small number will be set at 8% or 15% and some at 100%.
WTO director-general Supachai Panitchpakdi said he hopes the countries will be able to solve the problem without resorting to sanctions.
"I'm sure there will be some way out," Supachai told a press conference in Beijing. "I expect the conciliatory approach that we have seen in the past, and I certainly recommend that approach."
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