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US faces sanctions backed by WTO

Ruling targets antidumping law

BRUSSELS -- The World Trade Organization yesterday authorized the European Union and seven other leading US trading partners to impose more than $150 million worth of sanctions against the United States for failing to repeal antidumping rules deemed illegal by the WTO.

The ruling by the Geneva-based organization allows the trading partners to fine the United States up to 72 percent of money collected from foreign exporters under the so-called Byrd Amendment.

That legislation, dating from 2000, empowers Washington to hand over to US companies the duties imposed on foreign firms judged to be unfairly dumping cheap goods on the US market. A statement from the eight complainants estimated that money totaled about $240 million last year.

''It is clear that the Byrd Amendment is a WTO-incompatible response to dumping . . . and must therefore go," said EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.

However, the EU and the other complainants -- Japan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, India, South Korea, and Mexico -- indicated they would hold off from imposing sanctions. Instead they are likely to use the threat of retaliation to press the US Congress for an early repeal of the legislation.

A joint statement from all eight said they could ''exercise their retaliatory rights, at any time deemed appropriate."

Named for its sponsor, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, the three-year-old amendment primarily benefited US steel manufacturers.

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