U.S. Accepts Defeat in WTO Ruling on Gas

Article excerpt

The United States yesterday said it will abide by a World Trade Organization ruling issued five months ago that U.S. environmental regulations on imported gasoline need to be changed.

How the administration intends to change requirements on fuel imports won't be decided until after what promises to be a lengthy hearing process, U.S. trade officials said.

"We have initiated a process which will examine any and all options for compliance," acting U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said in a written statement.

The WTO in January said the 1990 Clean Air Act set different pollutant standards for foreign gasoline producers than it did for domestic ones. The ruling was in response to a complaint filed by Venezuela and Brazil over their gasoline exports to the United States.

U.S. producers are required to reduce polluting emissions by 15 percent from the 1990 levels. But the reduction required of foreign refiners was based on what amounted to a stricter standard calculated from baseline emissions averages of U.S. producers.

Venezuela in 1995 said that approach in effect imposed more restrictive requirements on its producers than it did on U.S. ones. Brazil later joined the complaint.

A three-member WTO appeals panel in April said international trading laws allowed the United States to discriminate against importers for environmental reasons but agreed with the original ruling that the United States didn't give Venezuelan and Brazilian refiners the chance to determine how much they needed to reduce emissions to meet U.S. standards.

Yesterday the United States said it will find a way to level the playing field for Venezuela, Brazil and other gasoline exporters. The decision was made after consultations with Congress.

"This amounts to the acceptance of dictation by a global body where we get one vote out of 120," GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan told the Associated Press. "This is a surrender of American sovereignty and a violation of the Constitution."

Mr. Buchanan said he will hold up the gasoline case in urging the Republican Party to adopt a platform plank at its San Diego convention calling for the United States to withdraw from the WTO. …