- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

I was on the staff of the House Republican Research Committee in 1994 when creation of the World Trade Organization was considered by Congress. I put out warnings that the new WTO dispute settlement process posed a threat to U.S. sovereignty. Three-judge WTO panels would claim the right to declare U.S. laws enacted by our democratic process to be “illegal” and demand that they be changed to suit foreign interests.

To mollify concerns such as mine, which were held by many members of Congress, the following statement was placed in the WTO implementation legislation, “UNITED STATES LAW TO PREVAIL IN CONFLICT. — No provision of any of the Uruguay Round Agreements, nor the application of any such provision to any person or circumstance, that is inconsistent with any law of the United States shall have effect. … Nothing in this Act shall be construed — (A) to amend or modify any law of the United States. …(B) to limit any authority conferred under any law of the United States.”

Unfortunately, these words of principle have been forgotten. While the U.S. has won a few minor cases at the WTO, on narrowly drawn issues such as Canadian wheat or Japanese apples, U.S. law has been overturned in large chunks. Legislators fall all over themselves trying to placate WTO opinion. It is not a matter of fighting cases or defending American rights any more. Too many of our elected lawmakers act as if the WTO has a pre-emptive veto over Congress, and will not even draft language that Geneva may not like.

So let me praise the U.S. Senate for finally standing up to the WTO and refusing to repeal the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act, better known as the Byrd Amendment, after its author Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat. The law allows the proceeds from the duties imposed on imports illegally “dumped” in the American market to be distributed to the industries hurt by the predatory foreign actions. Seventy-one senators are on record as supporting retention of this law.

U.S. trade laws are meant to protect American jobs and companies from foreign attacks in a world of cut-throat competition. Duties that merely go into Treasury coffers do not rebuild American companies. Foreign companies will pay the duties (often offset by subsidies from home governments that understand the high stakes in commercial strife) and continue their commercial assault in hopes of wiping out their American rivals. The targeted companies may be unable to pay down debt, raise capital or rehire workers because they have been financially weakened. The Byrd amendment helps make the damaged industries whole again and able to regain their rightful place in the market.

The Byrd law was a brilliant counter to predatory strategy. No wonder the European Union has been so adamant that Congress obey a twisted WTO ruling and repeal it. In a perfect example of what the United States is up against at the WTO, its judges actually ruled that the Byrd measure was illegal because it caused damage to the predatory firms (i.e., it works).

The EU plans to impose tariffs on U.S. exports to force Congress to obey the WTO. The WTO has no power itself. It is a “mother may I” body that grants permission and diplomatic cover for national governments to attack each other in trade wars. Washington should see through this ruse. Foreign decisions to act against the United States should be seen for what they are, with appropriate retaliation to follow.

The concern of conservatives and others worried about “judge-made law” in the domestic context is at a fever pitch in the wake of the Terry Schiavo tragedy. The battle over appointments to the federal bench has grown increasingly bitter. Alarmingly, some Supreme Court justices have cited foreign practice, legislation and public opinion in deciding cases of U.S. law. The growing distrust of American judges should be even stronger when applied to foreign judges who cannot be assumed to have any positive regard for the well-being of Americans or the continued preeminence of the United States. Indeed, just the opposite should be assumed.

Consider the leading candidates now vying to become director-general of the WTO. Uruguayan Carlos Perez del Castillo and Brazilian Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa both want to redistribute wealth from the industrialized North to the developing South (three-quarters of the WTO membership) by relocating centers of manufacturing and agriculture through trade. The European candidate is Pascal Lamy, a French socialist who as EU trade commissioner lead the assault on U.S. law at the WTO. Mr. Lamy is the disciple of Jacques Delors, who helped create the EU explicitly as a rival to the United States in world affairs. There is no U.S. candidate.

In his 2004 State of the Union message, President Bush said, “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.” His statement elicited thunderous applause. Mr. Bush was referring to the United Nations, but the same principle should apply to the WTO. The health of the U.S. economy and the integrity of its democratic system must be protected from foreign intrigue and pressure.

William Hawkins is senior fellow for national security studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.

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