Byrd doesn’t fly: WTO

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GENEVA, Switzerland – Still smarting after a rap from the World Trade Organization (WTO), the U.S. says it will appeal a ruling against the so-called “Byrd Amendment.”

The U.S. law in question gives American companies the fines collected from foreign firms they accuse of unfair pricing.

In a confidential ruling, the WTO decided the amendment breaks international trade rules and should be repealed. Canada, the first of 25 countries to complain about the law, welcomed the “interim” decision.

The report – released to give governments a chance to comment – is not yet final, but is unlikely to change before it is formally released, probably in September.

West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, the legislation’s namesake, described the ruling as “appalling.”

“The WTO has decided that it – and not the U.S. Congress – has the authority to determine how American tax dollars are spent,” adds Byrd.

Under the Byrd Amendment, passed in 2000, tens of millions of dollars in fines collected by the U.S. government is handed over to companies that lodge complaints against foreign exporters judged to be “dumping” products at artificially low prices.

Complainants charge the law punishes exporters to the U.S. twice because first they are fined and then those fines are handed to their competitors.

Canada’s Trade Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, says he is very happy with the WTO ruling.

“This legislation is potentially harmful and disruptive to the international trading environment. It means that the Byrd Amendment gives U.S. businesses a vested interest in having their government impose duties, because they would get a direct cut,” says Pettigrew.

“If the final report reflects the arguments brought forward by Canada, this is very good news. It will mean that the U.S. government will have to conform to international law by eliminating this unfair practice.”

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