Coming Home to Roost: Proliferating Antidumping Laws and the Growing Threat to U.S. Exports

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For decades, the U.S. antidumping law has been abused bydomestic industries seeking protection from foreign competition.Recently, many other countries have begun to follow the bad U.S.example -- and American exports are starting to pay the price.

Once a vice peculiar to the United States and a few otherwealthy countries, antidumping protectionism has becomeincreasingly popular among developing countries. As those countriesreduce traditional trade barriers in the form of tariffs andquotas, antidumping has emerged as a convenient protectionistalternative.

During the 1990s, antidumping use increased by 50 percentrelative to the '80s. The surge in new cases reflects theproliferation of antidumping laws in the developing world.Developing countries accounted for only seven investigations during1980-87; by contrast, developing countries brought over 700 casesduring the second half of the 1990s. The number ofantidumping-using jurisdictions jumped from 12 to 28 between 1993and 1999. A total of 62 jurisdictions now have antidumping laws ontheir books.

U.S. companies have become leading targets of the antidumpingbarrage. From January 1995 to June 2000, the U.S. was the thirdmost popular target of antidumping measures worldwide -- trailingonly China and Japan. Over that period, U.S. exports were thesubject of 81 investigations by 17 different countries. In 51 ofthose cases, antidumping measures were imposed. Exposure of U.S.exports to antidumping harassment is up sharply: the average numberof measures in force against U.S. goods during 1996-2000 was 41percent higher than during 1991-1995. Included among the hundredsof U.S. exporters victimized by antidumping are many well-knowncorporations: 3M, Amana, Bristol-Myers Squibb, ConAgra, GeorgiaPacific, Monsanto, Owens Corning, and Union Carbide.

The U.S. government continues to resist calls for antidumpingreform in international trade negotiations. That oppositionreflects the strong political support for the U.S. antidumping lawby protectionist U.S. industries. Downstream import-usingindustries and American consumers are left to suffer; now, with theworldwide spread of antidumping protectionism, so are U.S.exporters. The dangers of antidumping proliferation should providea wakeup call for U.S. policymakers: it's time to get serious aboutantidumping reform.

Brink Lindsey and Daniel J. Ikenson

Brink Lindsey is the director of the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies. Daniel Ikenson is a trade policy analyst at Cato's Center for Trade Policy Studies.