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The BBC's Egon Cossou
"The list includes candles, bacon and cheese"
 real 28k

Former US trade representative, Carla Hills
"We believe in a rules based system"
 real 28k

Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 05:33 GMT 06:33 UK
Trade war set to escalate
Banana imports have become the centre of a huge trade battle
Bananas are at the centre of a new trade war
The US government is expected to announce on Friday a new set of trade sanctions targeted at EU products, after the two sides have failed to resolve their disputes over beef and bananas.

More than $300m worth of EU goods will be subject to 100% tariffs in a move to persuade the EU to implement two rulings of the World Trade Organisation, the body that regulates world trade.

UK products, such as cashmere sweaters, which escaped trade sanctions last time, could be among the casualties.
The Scottish cashmere industry could be at risk
The Scottish cashmere industry could be at risk

An official at the US embassy in London said the aim was to "re-energise negotiations in a way that would bring about a resolution of the disputes." The US won the right to levy punitive tariffs against a range of EU goods last year after winning its case in the World Trade Organisation.

But after fresh Congressional legislation, the US is planning to rotate the list of goods subject to 100% import duties every six months.

The wide ranging list of products includes candles, bacon, and cheese.

Many of the trade groups affected by beef and banana disputes want to US to target the cashmere sweater industry.

"My guess is, at the moment, that's probably where the hang up is," said Len Condon, of the American Meat Institute. "I think there's a big battle going on over cashmere."

The US embassy says it has received many expressions of concern from the UK cashmere industry which it has passed on to Washington.

Banana wars

The long-running dispute over beef involves the import of US beef treated with growth hormones, which the EU says could be a health risk and banned in 1988.

The WTO ruled that this claim could not be substantiated, and that the US was entitled to $116m (75m) in compensation for the lost trade.

The EU has continued to call for further scientific studies of the issue, and says it will not put the health of its citizens at risk.

On bananas, the US and several Latin American producers argued that the EU's preferential treatment of bananas imported from its former Caribbean colonies breached international trade law.

Again, the WTO ruled against the EU, and authorised the US and some Latin American countries, like Ecuador, to impose trade sanctions of $191m (118m).

On Monday EU foreign ministers failed to agree new proposals to resolve the dispute.

The US says its plans are now backed by the former UK colonies in the Windward Islands, but that the EU is holding out for further concessions to EU-based fruit importers.

US gets tough

The tough new US stance comes after Congress passed new legislation to strengthen US trade law ahead of the November election.

Although both of the main US candidates say they support free trade, they have been coming under pressure from fringe candidates like Ralph Nader who argue that free trade has hurt American jobs.

Already there have been threats by the US to take the EU to the WTO over the issue of subsidies to Airbus and the import of genetically modified food.

A US trade official admitted that the disputes had become more high-profile since the breakdown of talks over a new trade round in Seattle last December.

EU criticism

EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy criticised the US plan to rotate trade sanctions, and said he would bring a complaint against the US use of this mechanism to the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Lamy said he regretted it had taken so long for the EU to comply with the WTO's beef and banana rulings "not least because it has given the U.S. the excuse to invent its own dispute settlement mechanism called 'carousel', or should that be Russian roulette?..."

He said the "carousel" proposal made the trade disputes harder to solve and was "deeply regrettable".

The EU has won cases against the US regarding tax subsidies for exports by US multinationals, and is bringing action over the trademark for a brand of rum.

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See also:

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