House Bill Repeals Illegal Dumping Law
Literally hundreds of tariff suspensions included in the legislation
WASHINGTON, DC - 10/13/04 - In yet another addition to the recent flurry of trade-related activity on Capitol Hill, the US House of Representatives has given final passage to a bill that would repeal a dumping law that was ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The bill also extends permanent normal trade relations (NTR) to Armenia and Laos.
To become law, the bill would have to be passed by the Senate and signed by the president, but, according to sources, it isn't known whether the Senate will consider the bill when Congress returns November 16 from its election recess.
Most of the 299-page bill, passed by the House without debate, comprises hundreds of tariff suspensions on imports of goods not produced domestically and traded in small volumes.
According to reports, repeal of the 1916 anti-dumping law was slipped into the final version of the miscellaneous tariffs bill by House and Senate negotiators even though neither chamber had passed such a provision in prior versions of the bill.
The House Judiciary Committee had approved the provision, however, and US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick had urged its passage.
The WTO had ruled against the 1916 antidumping law, which was challenged by the European Union (EU) and Japan.
Under the law - which has never been used from 1916 until the 1990s - US companies can sue foreign producers for triple damages for dumping goods on the U.S. market with the intent of injuring U.S. industry, reported the Washington Wire.
To date no plaintiff has ever collected damages under the 1916 law.
Last May, however, a US federal court upheld a jury verdict ordering a Japanese newspaper press manufacturer to pay its US rival more than $30 million, triple the damages from dumping as calculated by the jury. That case reportedly remains under appeal.
The provision in the miscellaneous tariffs bill would repeal the 1916 law but "would not overturn any case already decided or pending under the law."
It isn't known, however, whether Japan or the European Union would accept such a non-retroactive change.
The WTO had already authorized retaliation by the EU against any final judgment ordered under the law against a EU company.
Another provision of the miscellaneous tariffs bill would grant permanent NTR for Armenia.
Otherwise known as most-favored-nation treatment, NTR prohibits discrimination among a country's trading partners. Up until this point, Armenia has had temporary NTR, approved year to year by the president.
The bill would also extend NTR to Laos, bringing into force a 1997 U.S.-Laos trade agreement.
Laos remains one of only four countries worldwide and the only least-developed country to which the US does not extend NTR.
Miscellaneous tariff bills typically pass each session of Congress routinely, but this one was held up over a succession of issues for three years - for example, a senator representing a major textile-producing state delayed Senate action until he'd achieved a change requiring clearer country-of-origin labeling for socks.
According to the Washington Wire, other provisions of the bill would correct a mistake in the Trade Act of 2002 that inadvertently raised duties on Andean handbags, luggage, flat goods, work gloves and leather wearing apparel under the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA); clarify the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), extending retroactively to October 2000 duty-free treatment for collars and cuffs; and prohibit U.S. imports of archaeological, cultural and other rare items from Iraq to prevent illegal shipment of such antiquities;
In addition, the bill would also require US Customs to establish "integrated border inspection areas" along the US-Canadian border so that US Customs officers could inspect vehicles before they entered the US, and give Canadian Customs officials the same authority for vehicles entering their country from the US; and amend the US regulatory law concerning "cellar treatment" for both domestic and imported natural wine in line with a 2001 international agreement to eliminate the testing of wine for reasons "other than health and safety."
The EU has refused to accept US wine-making practices and has said it will prohibit the importation of any US wines that do not meet EU production standards after 2005 unless the two sides negotiate an agreement before then.
Congressional negotiators have indicated they intended this provision to provide leverage in US-EU negotiations, which, so far, haven't resulted in any agreement on the issue.
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