Anti-Dumping Policy Is Anti-Consumer

By Rippel, Barbara | Consumers' Research Magazine, January 2001 | Go to article overview

Anti-Dumping Policy Is Anti-Consumer


Rippel, Barbara, Consumers' Research Magazine


Consumers' interests are usually not the main concern on the congressional agenda when it comes to spending bills, and agriculture is no exception. The agricultural appropriations bill--signed into law by then-President Clinton on October 28th--is a recipe for another international trade dispute, and no reason for consumers to cheer. This situation is nothing new. However, the bill for fiscal year 2001 has attracted more than the usual criticism. Besides questionable commodity promotion programs and other "evergreens," an attached anti-dumping provision has trade proponents concerned about the possible repercussions. "Dumping" is the (controversial) term used for imports that sell at a price below what is normally charged in the exporter's domestic market.

Under a provision attached to this year's bill, receipts from tariffs imposed by the United States against countries that engage in what it considers dumping would be directly distributed to the complaining corporations--instead of to the U.S. Treasury.

U.S. companies will thus have an additional financial incentive to bring anti-dumping cases against their foreign competitors, without bearing the costs. Not that new incentives are needed. Already U.S. companies are filing numerous complaints before the U.S. International Trade Commission--which judges whether complaints are justified. As a result, U.S. anti-dumping laws are being strongly criticized by foreign trading partners as protectionist.

The European Union and Japan are already challenging the existing U.S. anti-dumping laws before the World Trade Organization's (WTO) dispute settlement system. The changes in the law have drawn additional criticism from Canada, the EU, and Japan, which announced that it might contest the new law before the WTO.

Anti-dumping politics play a particularly important role in U.S. steel and agriculture policies. Observers therefore suspect that the provision added to the agricultural spending bill is as much aimed at giving steel producers something to cheer about as rewarding producers of agricultural commodities. Steel producers and unions have been active in pressing for higher tariffs and other trade restrictions for foreign steel producers, especially during periods of rising steel imports.

While the total costs of anti-dumping measures and other trade restrictions for consumers are hard to measure, federal subsidies to the steel industry alone have already cost American taxpayers an estimated $21.8 billion (in constant 1999 dollars) since the late 1970s.

If that is not bad enough, the U.S. policy gives other countries a good excuse not to reform some of their own protectionist trade policies, notably the EU, which sees no reason to take steps to open its agricultural markets when it can point to U. …

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