Senators Press for Biotech Case in WTO; Trade Chief Urges Patience, Says White House Wants Joint Filing against EU

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Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Senate's top trade legislators yesterday accused the Bush administration of withholding a World Trade Organization case that would open a $300 million market for U.S. biotech crops.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of Senate Finance Committee, said he is "profoundly disappointed" that the administration has not filed a complaint at the WTO against European Union rules that hinder sales of biotech crops in the 15 EU member nations.

"I simply can't understand the administration's decision to delay bringing a WTO case against the European Union's biotech policies," Mr. Grassley said at a Finance Committee hearing.

Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the top Democrat on the committee that oversees trade, attacked U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick over the administration's inaction. He intimated that policies related to Iraq, where the administration is looking for allies in an effort to disarm the Middle Eastern country, have softened trade policy.

"Who in the administration is saying no [to a WTO case]?" Mr. Baucus demanded.

Mr. Zoellick did not answer directly but said that he was working to create a pro-biotech coalition that would file a joint case at the WTO.

"It shouldn't just be a legal matter. What we have to do is win the debate about biotech in world public opinion," Mr. Zoellick said yesterday before the Finance Committee.

Mr. Zoellick did not elaborate on who could join the coalition. Argentina, Canada, China, South Africa and Australia are the world's biggest biotech producers after the United States. …