Sheep industry opposes WTO decision

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The American Sheep Industry Association recently criticized a decision by the World Trade Organization’s appellate body that overturns a 1999 decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission that prompted the United States to impose import restraints on lamb meat imports.

The appellate body this week issued its report in connection with the challenge by Australia and New Zealand of the United States’ July 1999 safeguard measure on imports of lamb meat.

The safeguard measure consists of a three-year program of import restraints in the form of a tariff-rate quota and a program of financial assistance to the lamb meat industry.

In December 2000, a WTO Dispute Settlement Panel held that the safeguard action violated various provisions of the General Agreement and Tariffs and Trade and the WTO Safeguards Agreements. The appellate body’s report largely upholds the panel’s decision.

Shocking decision.

ASI President Cindy Siddoway expressed criticism regarding the appellate body’s decision.

“Frankly, we are a bit shocked at the decision, as the panel’s decision back in December was so fundamentally off-base that we fully expected the appellate body to reverse them. We didn’t necessarily expect a victory on all counts, but we certainly thought that the appellate body would correct some of the panel’s more egregious errors,” Siddoway said.

Siddoway was particularly critical of the appellate body affirming the panel’s conclusion that the U.S. International Trade Commission was wrong to consider lamb growers and feeders as part of the domestic industry injured by surging lamb meat imports.

“The panel and now the appellate body have said that the only U.S. industry producing lamb meat-and the only proper petitioners in a safeguard action – are the few dozen firms that actually slaughter live lambs and process the carcasses,” Siddoway said.

No remedy.

“That’s essentially telling the roughly 68,000 individuals, families and companies that raise live lambs in the United States that they have absolutely no remedy under the safeguards agreement if a flood of imported lamb meat comes into the U.S. market and ruins demand and prices for slaughter lambs.”

ASI and its attorneys are still studying the 72-page decision, but believe at this juncture that the ITC should be able to correct those elements of its determination that the appellate body found to be in error.

During the review process, current lamb import restrictions will remain in place.

The American Sheep Industry Association is on the Web at www.sheepusa.org.

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