- EU Report Details US Trade Barriers
BRUSSELS, March 2, 2006 -- The annual European Union (EU) report on US trade barriers emphasizes behind-the-border and World Trade Organization (WTO) issues, progress on the Byrd Amendment, and telecommunications procurement.
The European Commission's 21st annual report on barriers to trade and investment in the US was released Wednesday, the same day the EU and US lifted rules forbidding companies on one side of the Atlantic from bidding for government contracts across the ocean, ending a decade-old trade dispute.
According to an Associated Press (AP) report, "The US had claimed previous EU government procurement rules discriminated against American companies by allowing European rivals to get a 3-percent price preference in some areas, particularly the telecommunications sector. The EU responded with similar sanctions against US companies."
The EU has since opened up its telecommunications market, removing the main grounds for US complaints, the AP said.
The commission's report describes obstacles EU exporters and investors still face, especially nontariff barriers in investment and public procurement, and addresses some long-running WTO problems, such as US Jobs Act issues and the repeal of the Byrd Amendment, formally known as the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act, which became law in 2000. It mandates distribution of antidumping and countervailing duties -- historically reserved for the general treasury and used for general purposes -- to the domestic companies that brought or supported the original petitions in the underlying trade remedy cases.
According to the EU, nontariff barriers are now the major obstacle to increased EU-US trade.
"A wide variety of discriminatory 'Buy America' provisions and those impacting on federally funded infrastructure programs" are highlighted in the report, the commission said. "US restrictions in the shipping, energy and telecommunications areas, compounded by the plethora of different state laws and regulations, make overcoming US barriers a very complex operation."
The report cites progress in a number of areas.
"Government procurement sanctions are being withdrawn simultaneously by both sides today, healing a dispute that has dogged both sides of the Atlantic for over a decade. Last month's repeal of the Byrd amendment by the US Congress has already been welcomed by the commission, with EU sanctions now being reduced in tandem with remaining Byrd payments," the commission said.
But it added that the US's failure to comply with a number of WTO dispute settlement findings continues to be a major EU concern.
"For instance, the repeal of the US FSC/ETI export-contingent tax scheme includes transitional and grandfathering provisions which have been repeatedly ruled WTO-incompatible," the commission said. "The EU will continue to raise compliance concerns with the US authorities.
"In addition, unfair anti-dumping measures taken by the United States against the EU continue to be a major trade irritant," it said. "In over 50 anti-dumping cases and reviews since 1995, US duties have been inflated using the zeroing methodology, which has already been found WTO-incompatible and is currently subject to further litigation."
The Transatlantic Economic Initiative, resulting from the 2005 EU-US summit, is also offering new possibilities to advance trade and to tackle the regulatory and nontariff barriers identified in the report, the commission said. The initiative attempts to bring together EU and US regulators to look at how to deal with existing regulatory barriers and to avoid new ones.
"Both sides are also trying to strike the right balance between trade and security," the commission said.
The report can be downloaded at: www.eurunion.org
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