WTO Experts Rule Against U.S. Over Steel Tariffs

By Agence France-Presse A World Trade Organization (WTO) panel of experts has ruled against the United States in favor of the EU and seven other countries that had complained about U.S. tariffs on steel imports, trade sources said March 26. The U.S., stating that the measures are fully consistent with WTO agreements, said it will appeal the ruling if the decision is finalized, a senior U.S. trade official said, adding the safeguards would stay in place in the meantime. A three-member panel said the arguments used by the U.S. administration in an investigation that led to the imposition of the measures did not conform with WTO rules on safeguards, a source said. The panel found that the tariffs imposed on different steel products from the complaining countries were therefore illegal, the source said. Reacting to reports that the WTO Dispute Panel had ruled that the Section 201 tariffs were inconsistent with WTO agreements, Thomas J. Usher, chairman and CEO of U.S. Steel Corp., Pittsburgh, said in a statement, "The WTO decision, as reported, is both inconsistent with the facts and inconsistent with the law." The tariffs are fully compliant with WTO agreements, the statement said, and as such "the United States must appeal this decision to the WTO Appellate Body while continuing to fully enforce the tariff measures for the entire three-year period," Usher said. "The WTO decision raises the question of what it takes to satisfy a WTO panel with respect to a safeguard measure," Usher said. "The answer, it seems, is that it can't be done." Brussels initiated the complaint and was joined by China, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland and Brazil in a joint bid, lodged at the WTO last year. Washington placed tariffs of 8% to 30% on selected types of steel imports in March 2002. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003 IndustryWeek contributed to this report.

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