WASHINGTON (B)--The American Farm Bureau is "deeply troubled" by the Clinton administration's delayed release of the imports from the European Union that the United States will target with retaliatory tariffs, organization officials said Aug. 21. The original release deadline for the list was June 19, but there is no indication when the U.S. Trade Representative's office will release the list. "Continued delays...have powerful implications for the seriousness our national attaches to the enforcement of trade agreements," leaders of the Farm Bureau said in a recent letter sent to White House aide John Podesta. The Farm Bureau released the letter publicly Aug. 21.
The list is the result of a practice of "carousel retaliation," which allows the United States to rotate the list of European products to be targeted with tariffs. The tariffs are being imposed in retaliation for the EU's failure to comply with WTO rulings on the long-running beef and banana trade disputes.
Currently, more than 40 European food and luxury goods worth $308 million in annual sales face 100% import duties at U.S. ports under the current tariff list. The administration is bound by a new law to rotate the items targeted for retaliatory duties, and it had planned to release the new list by June 19.
But Clinton administration officials have said that deciding which products should be included has taken more time than expected, because so many domestic interest groups have a stake in the matter.
Farm Bureau spokesman Chris Garza said one product often cited as the cause of much debate is cashmere. A punitive tariff on cashmere--while hurting European producers, as intended-could also raise costs for U.S. apparel companies and sweater manufacturers.
Aug. 21 edition of USA Today newspaper reported that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has repeatedly intervened with President Clinton on behalf of Scottish workers who spin cashmere into sweaters.
Blair has raised the issue with Clinton in phone calls, in at least one letter, and in person at the Group of Eight summit in Okinawa last month, the newspaper reported.
In the Farm Bureau letter, the group's leadership requested a meeting with White House officials to discuss the matter. Garza said there has been no response thus far from the White House.