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EU Says U.S. Abusing WTO Rules

EU Says U.S. Abusing WTO Rules
GENEVA (AP) -- A group of major trading nations on Friday accused the United States of ``systematic abuse'' of World Trade Organization rules in its use of import tariffs to protect domestic industries.

At the end of two days of consultations with U.S. government of officials, representative from the European Union, Japan, South Korea, China, Switzerland and Norway said they had made no progress in persuading Washington to drop tariffs of up to 30 percent imposed on steel products last month.

The move provoked the EU and 10 other countries to demand compensation while Brussels decided to impose similar tariffs to protect its own steel industry, an action that infuriated the United States.

In a joint statement, the six complainants said they were concerned about Washington's ``systematic abuse of safeguards instruments'' -- rules that allow a country to raise tariffs temporarily to give domestic producers time to restructure.

They pointed out that the WTO has ruled against the United States in six previous disputes relating to safeguards.

In this case, the tariffs were imposed even though there has been no sharp increase in imports in recent years, and the United States failed to take into account other factors that might have damaged the U.S. steel industry, they claim.

They also are upset that the Bush administration's move specifically excludes Canada and Mexico, Washington's partners in the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.

The United States claims it is acting in line with WTO rules and has so far rejected all requests for compensation.

The complaining countries added that if they could not reach an agreement with the United States, they will ask for a panel of trade experts to rule on the issue.

That request could be made as early as May 6, though it might take a year for the ruling to be issued.



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