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U.S. trade official, Congress attempt to restore tariff law

03-01-2012 10:18 BJT

WASHINGTON, Feb. 29 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. trade official Wednesday asked support from Congress to restore the government's ability to impose tariffs on subsidized products from "non-market economies" (NME).

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk urged a House panel to propose a legislation in a hearing that would empower the Department of Commerce to impose countervailing duties (CVD) on "non-market economies".

In September 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama's administration imposed a three-year tariff on imports of low-grade Chinese tires. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided on Dec. 19, 2011 that the Commerce lacks the legal authority to impose CVDs on subsidized imports from countries with non-market economies.

The court explained that government payments can't be characterized as "subsidies" in a NME context, and thus that the U.S. countervailing duty statute does not apply to NME countries.

"This flawed decision jeopardizes the ability of the United States to remedy the harmful effects of unfairly subsidized imports," said Kirk, adding that he looked forward to "securing passage of legislation that remedies the court's flawed ruling as soon as possible."

The bipartisan legislation soon emerged after the hearing. The House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and other lawmakers introduced a bill to remedy the flaws in the Tariff Act of 1930 and to overturn the federal court decision.

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and his colleagues quickly followed suit with a parallel Senate bill. They said since 2007 countervailing duties on non-market economies had protected an estimated 80,000 jobs in the United States.

However, the 2008 financial meltdown and subsequent global economic recession have hit the U.S. economy badly, leading to a near two-digit unemployment rate, almost stalling economic growth and sparking a new wave of protectionism.

Observers see trade protectionism as a short-sighted approach, while some U.S. officials believe a deeper trade integration into other regions could help the United States create more jobs and improve its competitiveness.

The Chinese government has repeatedly urged the United States to abide by its commitment against protectionism and maintain a free, open and just international trade environment.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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