Safety Valve or Flash Point? The Worsening Conflict between U.S. Trade Laws and WTO Rules

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The U.S. trade remedy laws--in particular, the antidumping andcountervailing duty laws and the section 201 "safeguard"provision--are often defended as necessary for ensuring domesticpolitical support for trade liberalization. Consequently, theargument goes, they actually strengthen the U.S. commitment to theWorld Trade Organization.

This argument ignores the controversy that the U.S. trade lawshave sparked with trading partners abroad. More than any othercountry, the United States is being challenged for failure to abideby the multilateral rules that govern antidumping, countervailingduties, and safeguards. In response to a succession of wide-rangingchallenges to U.S. trade remedy law and practice, the WTO DisputeSettlement Body has handed down a number of key decisions findingthe U.S. government in violation of its internationalobligations.

A review of those disputes and the relevant WTO rulings makesclear that the U.S. trade remedy laws have become a flash point oftension in the international trading system. It is increasinglyobvious that the U.S. laws in their current form and U.S. supportfor negotiated trade liberalization are not complementary butrather antagonistic and even incompatible. American policymakersare now faced with a stark choice between the trade law status quoand the integrity of the U.S. commitment to the WTO.

Lewis E. Leibowitz

Lewis E. Leibowitz is a partner with the law firm of Hogan & Hartson in Washington, D.C. He specializes in international trade law and regulation and is counsel to the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition.