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Wheat case moves ahead at WTO

(Thursday, March 6, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- By JACK SULLIVAN, Associated Press: WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States wants a World Trade Organization panel to mediate a dispute with Canada over its wheat export policies, a further step in proceedings launched in December.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick announced the move Thursday.

Zoellick requested negotiations with Canada before the WTO in December over what the United States claims are the Canadian Wheat Board's unfair and monopolistic trade practices.

Talks were held Jan. 31 and did not resolve the matter, so Zoellick will ask the panel to decide whether Canada abides by international trade rules.

Zoellick ruled last year that the Canadian government provides unfair help to its wheat farmers by granting the Wheat Board special monopoly rights and by subsidizing the cost of shipping wheat by railroad.

The Winnipeg, Manitoba-based board controls wheat and barley exports from Canada's western prairie provinces. Board members have rejected the U.S. allegations and say they abide by international trade agreements.

The North Dakota Wheat Commission, the U.S. Durum Growers Association and the Durum Growers Trade Action Committee had complained about Canadian trade practices to Zoellick and the Commerce Department.

The farmers contend the Canadian Wheat Board undercuts the price of U.S. wheat to gain market share in the United States and around the world.

The WTO case is separate from a Commerce Department's decision, issued Tuesday, to impose a 3.9 percent preliminary tariff on wheat imports from Canada.