Worried that their margins will be further squeezed by export sanctions levied in retaliation against U.S. trade policies, members of the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition (CITAC) are pinning their hopes on Congress. The pro-trade, anti-tariff group has called on Congress to make repeal of the Byrd Amendment its top legislative priority in 2005.
Officially known as the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act, the Byrd Amendment basically allows U.S. producers deemed to have been harmed by foreign competitors that dump products on U.S. markets at below-market prices to collect compensatory payments. That policy, in effect since 2000, hasn't sat well with U.S. trading partners, which believe it gives U.S. producers an unfair advantage in the global marketplace. Those trading partners took their grievance to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which ruled the policy illegal in 2002. Despite that ruling, the United States has yet to repeal the Byrd Amendment. Frustrated by the delay, the WTO late last year authorized eight major U.S. trading partners to assess fines on U.S. exports in retaliation.
Those threatened fines could affect a wide range of export products. The European Union has listed 78 U.S. products to be hit with duties, and Canada has announced 100-percent duties on U.S. products ranging from dried peas, mittens and pearls to plywood. Japan has also submitted a retaliation list to the WTO that includes steel, textile and agricultural products, while Korea and India will target agricultural and seafood products.
CITAC members have long objected to the Byrd Amendment, charging that it provides big handouts to U.S. producers of steel, lumber, and other materials at the expense of American consuming industries.Now they fear they'll become retaliation targets for a policy that doesn't directly affect them, forced to pay fines that will make it that much harder for them to compete in a tough global market.
As for the amount of money at stake, CITAC estimates the retaliatory fines could reach more than $150 million a year, says Jon Jenson, the group's president. For Jenson, the Byrd Amendment can't be repealed soon enough. "We hope Congress fully complies with the WTO ruling soon," he says, "both to help American consumers and to protect U.S. exporters from retaliation."