WTO rules in favor of U.S. on shrimp restrictions, corn syrup exports

Monday, October 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GENEVA (AP) _ The World Trade Organization on Monday rejected for a second time complaints by Malaysia that the United States is imposing illegal trade restrictions on shrimp imports through a law aimed at protecting endangered sea turtles.

A panel of trade experts upheld a ruling issued in June rejecting Malaysia's complaint. The Asian country had claimed that Washington should have fully repealed a law banning imports of shrimp from countries which use trawling nets that trap turtles.

Only countries where shrimp nets are equipped with turtle-excluder devices costing about $75 are allowed to export to the United States. Environmental experts have said nets without such devices are killing up to 150,000 turtles a year.

Following complaints from Malaysia, Pakistan, India and Thailand, the U.S. law was ruled illegal by the WTO three years ago, angering environmentalists who saw it as proof the WTO failed to take account of environmental concerns.

The United States was given until December 1999 to change its system. But instead of repealing the legislation, it changed its guidelines and put into place a program of assistance to countries to help them equip their fishing fleet with turtle excluders. It also lifted the restrictions on Pakistan after deciding that country had sufficiently strong measures to protect turtles.

In its June ruling, the panel declared itself satisfied with U.S. action to comply with the original WTO ruling but stressed that there should be more ``serious good faith efforts to reach a multilateral agreement.''

Also Monday a separate appeals panel upheld a ruling that said Mexico was continuing to act illegally by imposing antidumping duties on imports of high fructose corn syrup from the United States.

Mexico claimed it had changed its policies after a ruling in February 2000 that it had not concluded correctly that cheap exports from the United States were damaging Mexican producers. But the United States said it was still imposing illegal duties.

The ruling opens up the possibility of the United States demanding compensation or imposing trade sanctions on its southern neighbor.