The United States squared off against other World Trade Organisation members on Wednesday over its use of import penalties, an issue diplomats see as the latest obstacle to a new global trade deal.
The U.S. view:
"It is a very serious issue," U.S. ambassador to the WTO Peter Allegeier said after a heated negotiating session at the trade body's Geneva headquarters. He has previously said the United States "cannot envisage an outcome to the negotiations without addressing zeroing."
Everyone else's view:
Diplomats from major economies including the European Union, China, Brazil and India denounced that text at Wednesday's meeting, saying the "biased and partial" U.S. method had no place in a WTO accord meant to remove global barriers to trade.
"If the use of such practice prevails in the future, it could nullify the results of trade liberalisation efforts," said a joint statement from countries including Brazil, China, India and Japan and backed by the European Union and Canada.
Diplomats involved in Wednesday's session said no country spoke in defence of zeroing other than the United States, but the WTO's 151 member states need consensus on all aspects of a Doha deal for it to be achieved.
The Japanese WTO ambassador, Ichiro Fujisaki, told diplomats that his country was "both perplexed and disappointed" with the rules text, stressing "the negative impact of zeroing on future world trade."
And China's ambassador Sun Zhenyu said that if all WTO members were to use zeroing, the level of protectionism worldwide would surely increase "which is clearly not the objective of this organisation."
One part of the debate which confuses me is that, as I understand it, some Members with prospective systems use a practice that seems a lot like zeroing when they impose duties, under which they apply anti-dumping duties to products that sell below a designated price but not to products that sell above that price. But it's complicated by the fact that there are a variety of approaches, so I don't have a good sense of the issue. It's not clear to me how this issue is being dealt with, if at all, in the current negotiations.