Order Code RS20715
Updated March 5, 2002
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Trade Retaliation: The “Carousel” Approach
Specialist in International Trade and Finance
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Section 407 of the Trade and Development Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-200) requires the
U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to periodically revise the list of products subject to
retaliation when another country fails to implement a World Trade Organization (WTO)
dispute decision. This periodic revision of the product list has become known as
“carousel retaliation.” The intent of switching products is to exert more pressure on a
trading partner to comply with a WTO ruling. The impetus for more pressure came
principally from U.S. banana and livestock exporters, who had become frustrated with
the European Union (EU) and its repeated postponement of compliance with WTO
dispute rulings. To date, the USTR has not revised a product list under Section 407, but
credits the threat of action under carousel authority with helping to resolve the banana
case, and says that carousel authority might be used as leverage in the future. An EU
challenge of U.S. carousel retaliation still stands in the WTO dispute process.
Setting the Stage: The WTO Banana and Beef Disputes
Many U.S. policymakers have expressed concern over the effectiveness of the WTO
dispute resolution process to convince other countries to remove various trade barriers.
Two WTO dispute cases were especially exasperating to U.S. exporters because of the
length of time to decide the cases and the improbability that the losing party would change
its practices. These involved banana and beef trade disputes with the European Union
(EU).1 They were the main reason that Congress considered alternative ways to pressure
a trading partner to implement a WTO dispute decision.
All WTO disputes follow a procedure that normally takes about 2-3 years from start
to finish. Disputes are administered by the WTO members, who act as the Dispute
Settlement Body (DSB). Parties to the dispute first engage in consultations. If a
satisfactory solution is not reached, the complainant may request a panel to hear the
For more information on these cases, see CRS Report RS20130, The U.S.-European Union
Banana Dispute and CRS Report RS20142, The U.S.-European Meat Hormone Dispute, both by
Charles E. Hanrahan..
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
dispute. Once a panel report is issued, it will be adopted by the DSB, unless a party to the
dispute appeals it or all DSB members vote not to adopt it. If the report is appealed, the
Appellate Body submits its findings, along with the panel’s report as modified by the
appeal, to the DSB, which will adopt the reports unless all DSB members vote not to do
so. If the complaining party prevails, the losing party is given a “reasonable period of
time” for implementation; an arbitrator might decide that time. The original panel can be
called on to decide whether or not the losing party has implemented the decision. If a
country does not implement the decision within the agreed upon time period, there are two
possible alternatives for the complaining party. One is compensation, which is negotiated
between the disputing parties. The other is suspension of concessions, or stated simply,
retaliation. The complainant estimates its loss, the losing party can request arbitration on
the level of the loss, and the DSB approves the final level.2
Banana Case. The WTO banana dispute began in 1995, the WTO’s first year, but
challenges of the EU banana regime had begun earlier.3 The EU had a complicated import
regime that gave preferences to banana imports from its former colonies and preferential
licenses to European banana importers. In September 1995, the United States, Guatemala,
Mexico, and Honduras requested consultations with the EU. Ecuador later joined the
request. A panel was established and issued a report finding that the EU banana import
regime violated certain WTO rules. The EU appealed the report. The Appellate Body
upheld the panel’s principal findings, and the DSU adopted the Appellate report. An
arbitrator set a “reasonable time” for EU implementation at 15 months, or by January
1999. The EU argued that it came into compliance during the 15 months, but special
panels to examine the question did not agree. The United States asked to suspend $520
million in trade concessions. The EU requested arbitration. The arbitrators decided the
amount should be $191.4 million, and the DSB authorized the United States to suspend
concessions in that amount.4 On April 19, 1999, the United States imposed 100% tariffs
on a list of eight items representing $191.4 million in imports from the EU. [This case was
resolved in April 2001. See Recent Developments below.]
In selecting items for the retaliation list, U.S. officials wanted to increase tariffs on
items from EU countries that supported the banana regime. The higher tariffs would
increase the total cost of the items and hurt EU exporters. To illustrate, U.S. officials
selected “bath preparations, other than bath salts” as one of the items on the U.S. list.
Before the increase in tariffs, the U.S. duty on imports of these items from the EU was
4.9% ad valorem. That rate rose to 100% in April 1999. The two leading EU exporters
of bath preparations in 1998 were the United Kingdom and France. These countries not
coincidentally were also the leading supporters of the EU banana regime. In the four
quarters before the 100% tariffs were imposed, the United States imported $7.6 billion in
bath preparations from the United Kingdom and $7.5 billion from France. In the four
For further information on the WTO dispute process, see CRS Report RS20088, Dispute
Settlement in the World Trade Organization: An Overview, by Jeanne J. Grimmett.
Several countries in Central and South America requested action on the EU banana regime in the
early 1990s under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was predecessor
to the WTO. Those panel reports were not adopted.
The DSB also authorized Ecuador to suspend concessions in the amount of $201.6 million.
quarters after the imposition of 100% tariffs, U.S. imports fell to $1.3 billion (83%
decline) and $4.1 billion (45% decline) respectively.
Hormone Case. In January 1996, the United States requested consultations with
the EU on its directive on the use of hormones in livestock. The directive restricted
imports of meat produced with hormones. The United States requested a dispute panel.
(Canada also challenged the EU practice.) The panels reported that the EU ban was
inconsistent with the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement. The EU appealed, and
the Appellate Body upheld some of the panels’ findings but reversed others. The DSB
adopted the Appellate Body report and the panels’ reports as modified. An arbitrator set
a reasonable time for implementation at 15 months, or by May 1999. A month before the
time expired, the EU said it may not be able to comply with the DSB ruling and would
consider offering compensation by the deadline. The United States requested authorization
for suspension of concessions of $202 million. The EU requested arbitration, and
arbitrators set the level at $116.8 million. The DSB authorized suspension of concessions
in that amount. On July 27, 1999, the USTR announced duties in the amount authorized
by the DSB. The time from consultation to retaliation in both the banana and hormone
cases was about three and a half years.
The Congressional Response to Non-Compliance
On September 22, 1999, two months after the USTR increased tariffs in the hormone
dispute, Senator Mike DeWine, on behalf of nine other Senators, introduced S. 1619, the
Carousel Retaliation Act of 1999.5 The bill proposed an amendment to the “section 301"
trade program to require the USTR to “carousel,” or rotate, a retaliation list when a
country does not implement a WTO dispute settlement. It would have required the USTR
to rotate items 120 days after the first list of items and every 180 days thereafter. The
USTR would not be required to rotate the list if compliance was imminent, or if both the
USTR and the petitioners agreed that rotating was not necessary in that particular case.
The legislation attempted to more effectively place pressure on foreign governments,
through their domestic exporters, to change their position on the disputed practice. In his
statement introducing S. 1619, Senator DeWine said that “...some [WTO] member nations
are simply undermining this entire [dispute] process by refusing to comply with the final
dispute settlement decision, even after losing their cases on appeal.”6 He said that the EU
had ignored WTO rulings, ignored the U.S. retaliation, and now was preparing to
subsidize the products that had been identified for U.S. retaliation. Farm and cattle groups
and the Hawaii Banana Industry Association supported the bill.
The Senate approved the language of S. 1619 as an amendment to H.R. 434, a
broader bill that also dealt with trade with the Caribbean and with Africa, on November
3,1999. The House-approved version of H.R. 434 had not included a carousel provision.
Section 407 of the conference report included the carousel provisions of the Senate bill
and added a section on including reciprocal goods on the retaliation list. The conference
On October 1, 1999, Representative Larry Combest introduced identical bill H.R. 2991 with 12
Congressional Record, Sept. 22, 1999, p. S11260.
report was released on May 3, 2000. The same day, a European spokesperson was quoted
as saying that the carousel approach was a “very dangerous game” and that “the United
States has to realize that one day this can be used against them.”7 The House and Senate
approved the conference report, and the President signed the measure on May 18, 2000
(The Trade and Development Act of 2000; P.L. 106-200).
Summary of Section 407 of P.L. 106-200
In the event that the United States initiates a retaliation list or takes other action under
section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 because a country fails to implement the
recommendations of a WTO dispute settlement proceeding, the USTR shall periodically revise
the list or action to affect other goods of the foreign country. The USTR is not to revise the
list or action if the USTR determines that the country is about to implement the
recommendation or if the USTR and the petitioning party agree that it is unnecessary. The
USTR must review and revise the list 120 days after the date of the retaliation list and every
180 days thereafter. The USTR is to revise the list in a way that is most likely to result in the
country’s implementing the recommendation or in achieving a satisfactory solution. The
USTR is to include on retaliation lists the reciprocal goods of the industries affected by the
failure of the foreign country(ies) to implement the recommendation made in the dispute.
Although U.S. banana and meat producers clearly supported the carousel provision,
other U.S. businesses did not. Many businesses claimed that the carousel approach would
create confusion and cause hardship for retailers by continually raising and lowering tariffs.
On May 17, 2000, the day before the President signed H.R. 434 into law, Representative
Robert Menendez introduced H.R. 4478, the Small Business Trade Protection Act, for
himself and six others. The purpose of H.R. 4478 was to exempt certain small businesses
from the increased tariffs and other retaliatory measures imposed against EU products in
response to the EU banana and beef hormone regimes. The bill would have exempted
small importers (defined generally as those with fewer than 100 employees) from the
higher tariffs. It capped the exemption at 125% of the amount of the product imported
the prior year from the countries concerned. It also provided that small importers who lost
50% or more of their revenues as a result of higher tariffs in the disputes would be eligible
for full rebates of those tariffs. In related legislation, Representative Maxine Waters
introduced H.R. 1362, a bill to bar the imposition of increased tariffs or other retaliatory
measures against EU products in response to the banana regime of the European Union.
On May 26, 2000, just 8 days after the President signed the Trade and Development
Act of 2000, the USTR issued a press release calling for comments on modification of the
retaliation lists in the banana and beef hormone cases.8 The press release said that the
USTR was particularly interested in comments from small- and medium-sized businesses.
Pruzin, Daniel. EU Warns US Against Africa-CBI Provision Adopting ‘Carousel’ Approach to
Retaliation. Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. Daily Report for Executives, May 4, 2000.
USTR. USTR Announces Procedures for Modifying Measures in EC Beef and Bananas Cases.
Press Release 00-41. May 26, 2000.
On the same day that the USTR issued its press release, EU members authorized the
EU Commission to seek consultations with the United States on the carousel measure
under WTO dispute procedures. On June 5, 2000, the EU made a formal request for
consultations. In its submission requesting consultations, the EU argued that the carousel
approach violated the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding because the carousel
approach was a unilateral means to impose trade retaliation and had not been agreed to
multilaterally. The EU also argued that continual switching on the retaliation list caused
more harm than that allowed under WTO dispute procedures. Other countries wanted to
join the EU complaint. According to one report, 10 other countries, including Japan and
Australia, sided with the EU at the July 27, 2000 meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body.9
In its press release calling for comments, the USTR said that the Administration’s
goal was to announce modifications to the retaliation lists by June 19, 2000, which was the
first business day that was 30 days after Section 407 entered into force.10 That date passed
without modifications. A reason for delay might have been many U.S. companies used
possibly targeted products as inputs or sold such products, and did not want these
products on the list. According to one report at the time, “Over 500 requests were
received from US businesses and members of Congress looking to protect US firms that
rely on EU imports from being unduly hurt by the 100 percent duties.”11
To date, the USTR has not revised the lists of products for retaliation. A serious
concern has been a link between carousel retaliation and the U.S.-EU dispute over U.S.
tax benefits for foreign sales corporations (FSC). In that dispute, the EU brought and won
a case against the U.S. practice, and the United States amended its law in November 2000.
While a decision was pending in the WTO on whether or not the amended U.S. law was
in compliance with WTO rules, the EU and the United States informally agreed that the
EU would not seek sanctions in the FSC case. The EU warned, however, that if the
United States revised its product lists under the carousel provisions, the EU would ignore
the informal agreement and pursue sanctions. In July 2001, the WTO ruled that the U.S.
amendment was not WTO-compliant. The United States appealed the ruling, but lost its
appeal on January 14, 2002. The EU and the United States continue to discuss the FSC
In April 2001, the United States and the EU reached an agreement in the banana
dispute. As part of the agreement, the United States agreed to suspend its retaliatory
tariffs from July 1, 2001. Revision of the retaliation list in this case then will no longer be
an issue. In the hormone case, however, retaliatory tariffs remain in place. European
officials have mentioned possible compensation in the form of increased market access for
U.S. hormone-free beef, but nothing has been decided. In a hearing before the House
Agriculture Committee on May 23, 2001, U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick reportedly
U.S. Faces EU on ‘Carousel’ and Bananas. Trade Reports international Group. Washington
Trade Daily. July 28, 2000.
The conference report to accompany H.R. 434 (H.Rept. 106-606) stated that for cases in which
the USTR had already taken a retaliatory measure and the initial statutory deadline had already
passed, conferees expected the USTR to take initial action no later than 30 days after enactment.
‘Carousel’ List Still Held Up. Trade Reports International Group. Washington Trade Daily.
Aug. 2, 2000.
said that the carousel authority had been used successfully as a tool in the banana case, and
that it might be used in other disputes in the future.12
There are at least three policies to consider in relation to the question of noncompliance with a WTO dispute decision. One policy is acceptance of non-compliance
under the current WTO dispute procedures. The General Accounting Office (GAO) has
found that a majority of WTO disputes involving the United States have resulted in greater
market access or more protection of intellectual property rights.13 So, the WTO dispute
process generally has benefitted U.S. interests. However, in a few cases, the outcome has
not been greater market access. As the banana and hormone cases showed, a WTO
dispute decision against a country does not necessarily result in the timely removal of its
trade-restrictive practice. In those instances, the losing country may face higher tariffs or
pay compensation, neither of which is a goal of dispute settlement.
A second policy is to seek further reform of multilateral dispute settlement
procedures to increase the likelihood of compliance. If WTO Members find that
retaliatory measures do not always effectively induce compliance and that this situation
poses significant challenges to the overall effectiveness of the WTO dispute settlement
system, Members may seek to revisit existing dispute remedies. The United States has
already proposed in the current WTO dispute settlement review that the dispute
procedures provide for the carouselling of retaliation lists. Some commentators have also
suggested more aggressive monitoring of a defending party’s compliance activities during
the implementation period, especially where the period is long; automatic authorization of
compensation for prevailing parties; and remedies for past damage resulting from
violations of WTO obligations.
A third policy for consideration is unilateral action in an attempt to increase the
chance of compliance. Unilateral action such as carousel retaliation might or might not
improve compliance with WTO dispute decisions. If unilateral action is successful, the
domestic industry is better off because it faces a less restrictive foreign market. If not
successful, the domestic industry still faces the restrictive foreign market, U.S. consumers
of imported goods on the retaliation list have to pay higher prices, and foreign exporters
lose sales. In any case, continuous changes in retaliation lists could hurt some U.S.
companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses and importers of items on the
lists. The EU challenge in the WTO also could have international consequences. For
example, if the U.S. practice is upheld, will other countries impose similar measures?
Depending upon the point of view, carousel retaliation promotes the WTO by
strengthening the dispute process, or undermines the multilateral system through unilateral
Yerkey, Gary G. U.S. Will Use ‘Carousel’ Law as ‘Leverage’ to Open Foreign Markets, USTR
Zoellick Says. Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. International Trade Reporter. May 31, 2001.
U.S. General Accounting Office. World Trade Organization: Issues in Dispute Settlement.
Report to the Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives. August 2000.
GAO/NSIAD-00-210. P. 8