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WTO Faults U.S. Decision to Boost Duties on Japanese Steel

March 01, 2001|From Associated Press

GENEVA — The World Trade Organization ruled Wednesday that the United States acted illegally in deciding to increase duties on Japanese steel imports.

A panel of trade experts said the Commerce Department was wrong when it refused to consider information from three Japanese steel companies because their submissions had arrived late.

The increased duties were put in place in June 1999 after U.S. steel companies and steelworker associations complained that Japanese hot-rolled steel was being "dumped" at below-market prices, making it impossible for U.S. producers to compete.

The Commerce Department upheld the claim after an investigation. Extra duties were also imposed on steel from Brazil and Russia. Japan took its complaint to the WTO last year.

In its 713-page report, the panel said the U.S. department's conclusion that the Japanese companies had failed to cooperate was "not a decision that could properly be made by an unbiased and objective investigating authority."

It ordered the United States to "bring its measures into conformity" but rejected a suggestion by Japan that they should order Washington to remove the duties immediately.

It also rejected claims by Japan that the department had acted too hastily in making a determination of "critical circumstances," which allowed it to impose retroactive duties.

The United States has 60 days to file an appeal.

In another ruling released Wednesday, a WTO arbitrator said Washington had until July 26 to comply with a WTO decision last year that its 1916 Anti-Dumping Act is illegal.

The law, created to fend off unfair competition after the end of World War I, had been considered obsolete until the U.S. company Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. brought a lawsuit against importers of Russian and Japanese hot-rolled steel in 1998.

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