June 20, 1985
Memorandum for the United States Trade Representative
Subject: Determination Under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974
Pursuant to Section 301(a) of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (19 U.S.C. 2411(a)), I have determined that the preferential tariffs granted by the European Economic Community (EEC) on imports of lemons and oranges from certain Mediterranean countries deny benefits to the United States arising under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), are unreasonable and discriminatory, and constitute a burden and restriction on U.S. commerce. I have further determined that the appropriate course of action to respond to such practices is the withdrawal of equivalent concessions with respect to imports from the EEC. I will therefore proclaim an increase in duties on pasta products classified in items 182.35 and 182.36 of the Tariff Schedules of the United States imported from the EEC. This action has been necessitated by the unwillingness of the EEC to negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution of this issue. At such time as the United States Trade Representative makes a determination that a mutually acceptable resolution has been reached, I would be prepared to rescind this measure.
Reasons for Determination
Based on petitions filed by the Florida Citrus Commission, the California-Arizona Citrus League, the Texas Citrus Mutual and the Texas Citrus Exchange, the United States Trade Representative initiated an investigation in November, 1976 concerning the EEC's preferential tariff treatment with respect to citrus imports from certain Mediterranean countries. The petitions alleged that these discriminatory tariffs, which are granted in the context of broader trade agreements with the Mediterranean countries, are inconsistent with the most-favored-nation principle of the GATT and placed U.S. exporters at a competitive disadvantage in the EEC market. Similar complaints had been filed by the U.S. industry in 1970 and 1972 under Section 252 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
As a result of this investigation, we have found that since the 1960's, the EEC has levied a higher duty on imports of citrus from the United States than that levied on imports from certain Mediterranean countries. The level of discrimination is significant. In some cases the United States pays a duty five times greater than that paid by other suppliers. This discriminatory tariff treatment has impaired the ability of U.S. citrus exporters to market their fruits in the EEC and is, in the view of the United States, inconsistent with the EEC's obligations under the GATT.
Nevertheless, recognizing the political importance of these preferential tariffs to the EEC, the United States made extensive efforts over the course of a number of years to resolve the matter through bilateral consultations rather than mount a legal challenge against the EEC in the GATT. The United States also tried to resolve this issue in the context of tariff concessions granted during the Tokyo Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations. With the exception of a few minor tariff reductions resulting from the Tokyo Round, these efforts were without success. Following the conclusion of the Tokyo Round, the United States initiated consultations under the provisions of the GATT, but the EEC again rebuffed all efforts to reach a compromise solution.
With any possibility of a negotiated settlement thus ruled out, the United States invoked the dispute settlement procedures of the GATT as the only alternative means of seeking a redress of our complaint. In 1983, a panel was established to review the U.S. complaint. Throughout this procedure, the United States has continued to demonstrate its willingness to seek a mutually acceptable solution to this problem. For example, the United States agreed to the unusual step of allowing the Director-General of GATT to attempt to arbitrate the dispute before pressing its request for formation of a dispute settlement panel. Unfortunately, the attempt failed. The EEC rejected all efforts at compromise.
In December, 1984, based on a voluminous record, the panel found unanimously that the EEC preferences nullified and impaired U.S. benefits arising under the GATT with respect to U.S. exports of oranges and lemons, two of the eight categories of U.S. citrus exports affected by the tariff preferences. The panel recommended that the EEC reduce its MFN rate of duty on fresh oranges and lemons no later than October 15, 1985.
Although the panel did not rule on this issue, the United States continues to believe that the EEC citrus preferences are inconsistent with the most-favored-nation principle of the GATT, and thus nullify or impair U.S. benefits with respect to exports of the other citrus items as well as lemons and oranges. Nevertheless, the United States has been willing to accept the panel's more limited recommendation for the following reasons. The sole interest of the United States in bringing this issue to the GATT has been to obtain the elimination or reduction of a barrier to U.S. citrus exports. While the panel's recommendation does not call for the elimination of the barriers, we believe its implementation by the EEC would significantly increase access for key U.S. citrus exports to that market. Moreover, the panel's recommendation does not require the EEC to take action inconsistent with its preferential trading arrangements; indeed it would result in lower tariffs for the preference receiving countries as well.
The EEC, however, has been unwilling to accept either the panel's findings or recommendation and has effectively prevented a resolution of this issue in the GATT. Thus, U.S. attempts to resolve this problem at the bilateral or multilateral level have not succeeded.
In light of the results of the USTR's investigation, I believe we must recognize that the level of trade concessions between the United States and EEC is no longer in balance. We estimate that the value of annual U.S. exports of oranges and lemons would increase by more than $48 million if the EEC had implemented the panel's recommendation.
The EEC's unwillingness to implement the panel's finding or to otherwise provide adequate compensation to the United States requires us to re-balance the level of concessions in U.S.-EEC trade. Increasing the duty on pasta imports from the EEC is a reasonable and appropriate means by which to achieve this.
This determination shall be published in the Federal Register.
[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 10:04 a.m., June 20, 1985]