The World Trade Organization has authorized sanctions on U.S. exports for imposing fines on products allegedly exported to the United States below market prices.
The World Trade Organization has given the European Union, Japan and other countries the right to apply trade sanctions against a wide range of U.S. exports. Trade officials say the sanctions could amount to more than $150 million a year.
They are aimed at punishing Washington for failing to repeal the so-called Byrd amendment. The bill, named after its sponsor, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, allows American companies to collect duties levied on foreign rivals for allegedly selling goods at below market prices. U.S. companies claimed this made it impossible for them to compete.
The European Union and seven other trading powers disagreed, and complained to the WTO's disputes settlement body that the U.S. bill, adopted in 2000, broke international trade laws. They claimed it punished exporters to the United States twice, first by fining them, and then by having the fines passed on to their competitors.
The $150 million worth of sanctions is considered relatively modest when compared with previous sanctions rulings. The most striking one being the WTO's decision to allow the European Union to levy $4 billion of sanctions on the United States over corporate tax breaks.
The European Union says it hopes the United States will comply with WTO guidelines soon to avoid imposing the sanctions starting next year.
A U.S. official said the Bush administration is working with Congress to make the law meet WTO criteria and is also consulting with the United States' trading partners.