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U.S. Files Complaint Against Mexico's Duties on Rice, Beef

June 17, 2003|From Associated Press

The Bush administration challenged Mexico's anti-dumping duties on U.S. beef and long-grain white rice exports Monday, filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said the duties violate trade agreements.

"American ranchers and rice farmers expect to have fair market access for their products in Mexico," he said.

As part of the trade complaint process, U.S. and Mexican officials will meet to discuss the problem within 60 days. If the problem isn't resolved then, the United States will ask the WTO to form a panel to make a decision on the complaint.

U.S. beef exporters have paid duties ranging from 5% to 215% on certain beef products.

Gregg Doud, economist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn., said only a few, small beef exporters have to pay the duties because they didn't hand over enough information about their prices to Mexico when that country began investigating possible beef dumping in the mid-1990s.

Plants that did share that information don't have to pay the duties, he said. Still, the situation is "completely egregious," Doud said.

The disagreement started in April 2000, when Mexico accused U.S. beef exporters of dumping, or selling their products below market price. In June 2002, Mexico accused U.S. exporters of dumping white long-grain rice.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Mexico should comply with the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Last year, Mexico imported $829 million in beef products and $103 million in rice from the United States. It is the largest importer of U.S. rice and the second-largest importer of red meat, behind Japan.

U.S. exporters of long-grain white rice have been paying duties of more than 10%.

Jim Willis, president of international programs for U.S. Rice Producers, hopes the case doesn't grow to include all rice exports. Mexico is the biggest buyer of rough rice. It imported 600,000 metric tons from the U.S. last year, he said.

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