U.S. Assailed on Trade View at WTO Forum

At a World Trade Organization forum here, the U.S. came under heavy pressure from other major countries over the continuing slide of the dollar, the...

GENEVA — At a World Trade Organization forum here, the U.S. came under heavy pressure from other major countries over the continuing slide of the dollar, the maintenance of high tariffs in sectors such as textiles and apparel and the plan for scanning all U.S.-bound container cargo.

This story first appeared in the June 12, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The recent $289 billion U.S. farm bill and failure to implement global rulings to scrap trade-distorting cotton subsidies also came under fire from the countries, which included China, the European Union members, Brazil and India.

China, having taken heat from Washington for years over what critics claim is an undervalued currency, hit the U.S. over the “continuous depreciation” of the dollar. Sun Zhenyu, China’s WTO ambassador, said China hopes the U.S. “could take quick and targeted actions to stabilize the dollar” during a two-day review of U.S. trade policy that ended Wednesday.

David Shark, deputy head of the U.S. delegation to the WTO, countered that “the United States, unlike China, pursues a policy in which the exchange value of the U.S. dollar is wholly determined by the market.”

Eckart Guth, the EU’s WTO ambassador, said, “There are worrying signs of growing protectionism in a number of areas. This worrying tendency testifies that U.S. trade policy remains captured by special interest groups.”

Brazil’s ambassador, Clodoaldo Hugueney, said, “Political rhetoric in favor of protectionism in trade and foreign investment is worrisome,” and stressed the U.S. has been slow and at times reluctant to implement some WTO panel rulings, like the one on cotton.

India’s ambassador, Ujal Singh Bhatia, said a major concern for his country is that the U.S. retains a number of high duties and peak tariffs in areas of interest for its exporters.

“In textiles, tariff peaks range from 32 percent for some clothing, 25 percent for fabrics and 13.2 percent for yarns,” Bhatia said.

A report by the WTO on the U.S. trade regime said the average applied tariff for industrial goods in 2007 was 4 percent and for agricultural products was 8.9 percent.

Peter Allgeier, deputy U.S. Trade Rep-resentative, told trade envoys the U.S. remains “firm in our belief in the value of open markets, freer trade and a rules-based international trading system as organized under the WTO.” He stressed the openness of the U.S. economy and noted U.S. goods and services imports in 2007 were valued at $2.35 trillion, which he said translates into about $4 million a minute.

Allgeier said the U.S. “was the destination for nearly 23 percent of world goods exports in 2006” and remains “the world’s largest importer and exporter and a major engine of global economic growth,” adding that nearly 70 percent of all U.S. imports in 2007 entered duty free.

The U.S. delegation was also drilled over the container scanning plan adopted last year and in the process of being implemented. Hong Kong said it supports initiatives aimed at enhancing global security, but pointed out that as one of the busiest container ports in the world it’s concerned that any initiatives in this domain “should not impede trade or the smooth operation of the port.”

Shark said the U.S. border security measures “are absolutely essential to deal with the terrorist threats” and “can be developed and refined so as to minimize delays at the border or even reduce such delays.”