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New Zealand wins WTO steel case

New Zealand wins WTO steel case

Reports that a World Trade Organisation disputes panel had ruled that the United States safeguards on imports of steel breached relevant WTO obligations relating to the imposition of safeguards were great news for the New Zealand steel industry, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

He said New Zealand had always been confident that the safeguards imposed by the United States would be found to be inconsistent with American obligations under the WTO Agreements.

"The WTO Panel's decision vindicates our position."

The ruling follows a WTO challenge by New Zealand to the safeguard measures imposed in March 2002 by the United States on a wide range of imported steel products. This included a 30% tariff on exports by New Zealand Steel into the United States market, trade valued at nearly $70 million before the safeguard was imposed. In addition to New Zealand, the WTO legal challenge to the US safeguard measures was pursued by seven other steel exporting WTO members: Brazil, China, Japan, Korea, the European Communities, Norway and Switzerland.

Mr Sutton said the disputes panel decision once again confirmed the value of the WTO system to New Zealand.

"The dispute settlement system has already enabled New Zealand to protect its access to Europe for butter, to secure the removal of unjustified safeguard tariffs on our lamb exports to the United States, and to challenge successfully the unlawful export subsidies which Canada has been granting to its milk exporters. While I recognise that the decision may be subject to an appeal by the United States to the WTO Appellate Body, I hope that the United States will now remove the steel safeguards without delay."

The interim report of the WTO Panel remains confidential to the parties until the final report is circulated to all WTO Members in Geneva. The report is expected to be circulated by the end of April. The United States will have two months after the report is circulated to decide whether to appeal the panel decision to the WTO appellate body.

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