CITAC calls for repeal of Byrd Amendment

WASHINGTON – The Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition said today it is “imperative” for the U.S. Congress to repeal the Byrd Amendment before U.S. exporters – including those in the boating industry – face imminent retaliation from other countries.

On Friday, the World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Body authorized the imposition of sanctions by U.S. trading partners for the U.S.’s failure to repeal the “Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act” – known as the “Byrd Amendment” – which mandates distribution of antidumping and countervailing duties to companies that have petitioned for trade protection and other supporters of the petition. Two years ago, the WTO declared that the Byrd Amendment violated U.S. international trade obligations.

European Union, Canada, Japan, and five other countries were authorized to impose the sanctions, and the Canadian government quickly proposed a 100-percent tax to imported products from the U.S., including pleasure vessels such as yachts, sailboats, motorboats, inflatables and canoes.

Several boating industry executives and officials have already stated their opposition to the Byrd Amendment, and in a press release issued this morning, CITAC – an American coalition of companies and organizations committed to promoting trade where U.S. consuming industries and their workers have access to global markets – urged Congress to act quickly to protect U.S. consumers and exporters.

“Congress must take swift action to end the Byrd Amendment to bring the U.S. in line with global trade rules and stop the retaliation on hundreds of U.S. goods,” said Jon Jenson, CITAC president. “This retaliation is the direct result of the unwillingness of some in Congress to consider the welfare of the entire nation as well as the global trading system. The Byrd Amendment is, in a very real sense, pork barrel politics. Consumers and exporters should not have to pay the price for unfair subsidies under this ill-considered law.”

CITAC Counsel Lewis Leibowitz said CITAC’s goal is to secure conformity of U.S. law with WTO requirements in 2005.

“Some in Congress have said that any nation is ‘free’ to distribute revenues as it sees fit [referring to Byrd Amendment distributions]. This simply isn’t true,” Leibowitz explained. “The Subsidies Agreement restricts the ability of WTO members to distribute government revenues if they distort trade. And the WTO found – correctly, we believe – that the Byrd Amendment distorts trade.”

Leibowitz said that American producers of steel, lumber, candles, pasta, seafood, ball bearings and other products have reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in Byrd “handouts” from the federal government at the expense of American consuming industries over the past several years.

“The government is rewarding companies for not competing in the global marketplace,” Leibowitz said. “What’s worse, the Byrd funds are going from the pockets of American consuming industries willing to compete in the global marketplace to those companies who seek federal protection from competition.”

CITAC said the Congressional Budget Office earlier this year found that the Byrd Amendment harms the U.S. economy and encourages more antidumping and countervailing duty trade cases. CBO estimates that Byrd distributions to U.S. companies who file successful trade cases will total more than $3.8 billion by 2014 – all paid for by other U.S. companies that must pay the import duties.

Duties from most or all of the countries are expected to go into effect early next year if the amendment is not repealed by the U.S. Congress, CITAC said.

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