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U.S. Halts EU Bid For WTO Ruling On Steel

By Agence France-Presse The United States temporarily blocked a request by the European Union May 22 for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to rule on the legality of U.S. steel tariffs in a move coinciding with the scheduled arrival in Europe of U.S. President George W. Bush. Describing the EU's challenge of the measures as "regrettable," the U.S. insisted before a meeting at the WTO that its measures were "fully consistent" with the terms of global trade accords. But countries lined up behind the EU at the session to condemn the controversial tariffs. South Korea and Venezuela both warned of a "spiral of protectionist measures," trade sources said. The 15-nation EU became the first of the WTO's 144 members to have its complaint against the bitterly contested U.S. measures taken up by the Geneva-based organization's dispute settlement body. Under WTO rules, the member "in the dock" can reject the creation of an expert panel once, though a second request cannot be blocked and would automatically lead to a panel being set up. The EU's ambassador to the WTO, Carlo Trojan, told the meeting that officials would again ask WTO experts to examine the U.S. measures when the dispute settlement body meets on June 3, trade sources said. The European Commission "is confident that the WTO will again rule against the abuse by the U.S. of the WTO safeguards provisions," he told delegates. On six previous occasions the WTO has condemned tariffs on a range of products over the same point of law, he said. Listing reasons why the U.S. measures were deemed by Brussels to fall foul of WTO rules, the EU ambassador said: "The U.S. simply makes the rest of the world pay for the lack of restructuring of its steel industry." Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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