DES MOINES (DTN)--U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick announced June 16, that the U.S. is filing a WTO case against Mexico's antidumping duties on U.S. beef and white long grain rice.

The formal filing begins a 60-day negotiation period between the U.S. and Mexico, which is required by dispute-resolution rules in the World Trade Organization.

Besides beef and rice, the 60-day talks will also cover aspects of Mexico's recently amended antidumping and countervailing duty laws, says a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"By filing a WTO case today, we are working to ensure that Mexico doesn't use foreign trade remedy laws as unfair barriers to U.S. products, and that these laws are administered in a transparent and predictable manner in accordance with WTO rules," said Zoellick.

"American ranchers and rice farmers expect to have fair market access for their products in Mexico," he added.

The U.S. has already brought WTO challenges against Mexico's antidumping investigations of high-fructose corn syrup and hogs. Mexico withdrew both orders as a result of these challenges, notes the USTR office.

Mexico imposed antidumping duties on U.S. beef in April, 2000, and on U.S. white long grain rice last June. In addition, Mexico passed amendments to its antidumping and countervailing duty laws in December, which are also targeted under the WTO filing.

With anti-dumping duties, Mexico accuses U.S. producers of "dumping" their goods into Mexico below the cost of production or the domestic price. But the U.S. is challenging the calculations and methodology that Mexico used in making such a determination.

The filing is the first step under WTO dispute settlement rules, notes the USTR. If the dispute isn't resolved within 60 days, the U.S. will be entitled to ask the WTO to establish a panel to hear the U.S. complaint and determine if Mexico is acting in accordance with its WTO obligations.

The USTR's office notes that the WTO dispute settlement process takes about 18 months--if there is an appeal. And there's almost always an appeal.

Mexico's antidumping measure on beef is already the subject of a case that the U.S. beef industry brought under NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). The NAFTA case is addressing whether the Mexican determination is consistent with the legal requirements of Mexico's antidumping law.

In contrast, the June 16, WTO case involves a broader number of issues, and will examine instead whether the determination is consistent with WTO rules, said Zoellick.

In particular, the negotiations will cover issues such as Mexico's choice of data used in the investigations, its methodology for determining whether the Mexican industries were injured by reason of dumped imports, its failure to terminate the investigations when it found that dumping or injury were not occurring, its calculations of dumping duty rates applicable to imports and its non-transparent determinations.

"It is unfortunate that we could not resolve these matters bilaterally. But we have been patient and now must ensure that the trade agreements are fully enforced," said Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman. "Our farmers expect that 'a deal is a deal' and must be lived up to."

In 2002, the U.S. exported $829 million of beef products and $103 million of rice to Mexico, and Ann Veneman noted that NAFTA helped make Mexico the third-largest export market for U.S. farmers.

The smaller NAFTA case against Mexico's beef anti-dumping duties is expected to see a decision by August, says USTR.

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