US Senators oppose any concession on anti-dumping rules in FTAA negotiations

Sixty-two US senators have,in a letter to President George W Bush (the text of which is reproduced below), taken a political step to freeze hopes of fast and easy negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which are targeted for completion by 1 January 2005. The document, dated 7 May 2001, was signed by a bipartisan majority that includes the Republican congressional leader Trent Lott and the Democrat leader Tom Daschle.

By withdrawing from the negotiating table any change in the US' commercial laws and policies, the senators have made it very difficult for the country's major trading partners in the hemisphere (particularly Brazil, Chile and Argentina) to enter into an agreement that will grant them access to the US market for their key export products.

During the Summit of the Americas in Quebec in April, the presidents of these countries insisted on the need for the US to substantially revise the anti-dumping norm as a requisite for any free trade agreement. Its anti-dumping laws allow the US to unilaterally impose additional levies on any product that is deemed to be competing unfairly with American products.

According to the US constitution, foreign relations are the responsibility of the White House, but trade is ruled by Congress. The opinion of the Senate would therefore prevail over that of the president and heavily conditions what the US trade representatives might offer in negotiations.

Letter by 62 US senators to the US President

The President

The White House

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to state our strong opposition to any international trade agreement that would weaken US trade laws.

Key US trade laws, including anti-dumping law, countervailing duty law, Section 201, and Section 301, are a critical element of US trade policy.  A wide range of agricultural and industrial sectors has successfully employed these statutes to address trade problems. Unfortunately, experience suggests that many other industries are likely to have occasion to rely upon them in future years.

Each of these laws is fully consistent with US obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other trade agreements.  Moreover, these laws actually promote free trade by countering practices that both distort trade and are condemned by international trading rules. 

US trade laws provide American workers and industries with the guarantee that, if the United States pursues trade liberalisation, it will also protect them against unfair foreign trade practices and allow time for them to address serious import surges.  They are part of a political bargain struck with Congress and the American people under which the United States has pursued market-opening trade agreements in the past.

Congress has made clear its position on this matter.  In draft fast-track legislation considered in 1997, both Houses of Congress have included strong provisions directing trade negotiators not to weaken US trade laws.  Congress has restated this position in resolutions, letters, and through other means.

Unfortunately, some of our trading partners, many of whom maintain serious unfair trade practices, continue to seek to weaken these laws.  This may simply be posturing by those who oppose further market opening, but - whatever the motive - the United States should no longer use its trade laws as bargaining chips in trade negotiations nor agree to any provisions that weaken or undermine US trade laws.

We  look  forward  to  your  response.