US drops appeal over WTO ruling on China chicken

Mon Oct 25, 2010 7:12am EDT

* WTO ruling against U.S. restrictions stands

* U.S. had already dropped offending measures

GENEVA Oct 25 (Reuters) - The United States allowed a World Trade Organization (WTO) condemnation of U.S. restrictions on imports of cooked chicken to stand on Monday by deciding not to appeal a ruling by experts in a complaint brought by China.

Parties to WTO disputes often appeal initial rulings, dragging out the case for months or years.

But in this case the United States already had dropped the measures that China objected to -- a ban imposed by the U.S. Congress in a spending bill preventing the U.S. authorities from taking steps to process imports of Chinese chicken.

At a meeting of the WTO's dispute settlement body, the United States did not object to the adoption of the ruling published on Sept. 29, a participant in the meeting, who asked to remain anonymous, said. [ID:nLDE68S1PZ]

The dispute was one of several roiling U.S.-Chinese relations. China had responded to the original U.S. ban by imposing duties on U.S. chicken imports, and the two powers are wrangling over their currency exchange rates.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has declared that enforcement of international trade rules is a centrepiece of U.S. trade policy.

Like many trade disputes, this one originated in concerns about food safety -- a consumer concern that politicians must tackle, but which easily is abused for protectionist purposes.

The U.S. had banned imports from China and some other Asian countries after outbreaks of bird flu in 2004, but the spending ban -- imposed after a series of food scares in China -- meant that Chinese chicken could not enter the United States in practice even after imports formally were allowed.

China argued that the reasons for the U.S. measures were unscientific, a claim backed by a WTO panel of experts.

(Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; editing by Michael Roddy)