Congress Unites! In Order to Violate International Law

by Julian Ku

The U.S. Congress is just about to have their much-dreaded midterm elections, and they will probably not do much before November 2 except to spend millions of dollars on annoying campaign ads.  But it looks like before they break for the election, Congress may vote on two bills that may violate U.S. obligations under the WTO and NAFTA.

First, Congress is about to approve the “Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act“, which would require all foreign manufacturers exporting goods to the U.S. to have a registered U.S. agent able to receive service in case of a domestic U.S. lawsuit.  Aimed primarily at sketchy drywall manufacturers in China, the law is causing lots of angst in Canada, whose ambassador has recently warned the law would violate both the WTO and NAFTA. I am actually not exactly sure why this law, which does not seem to impose any obligations on foreign manufacturers not already borne by domestic ones, would violate the WTO or NAFTA.  But the Canadians are sure up in arms about it.

Second, Congress may be close to passing a bill authorizing anti-dumping or countervailing duties on Chinese imports due to an alleged undervalued Chinese currency.  This too is highly sketchy as a matter of WTO law, and is sure to spark at least a  WTO case, if not an actual trade war.

Ironically, these two acts have very broad bipartisan support, maybe the only two acts that the Democrats and Republicans currently agree on.  It’s nice to know Americans can come together, even if it is to result in violating international treaty obligations.

3 Responses

  1. Election year postering of a bipartisan nature is nothing new here or in other democracies around the world.  I can not wait to see the moment in the WTO procedure where the countervailing measures are authorized – that will be interesting to see whether they target particular Congressional districts of those who voted in favor of these laws.  Like the Europeans did in retaliation for an American move that I vaguely remember with Pascal Lamy as the point person for the Europeans.


  2. Maybe this is addressed in the book, but I am wondering whether the Somalis experienced their state as a “failed state”.  What I mean is that the actual extent of governmental function other than running an airport (with a contract to some foreigners possibly) may be extremely limited particularly in the Most Seriously Affected countries.  Countries that do not patrol their territorial waters very well.  Countries that provide no services to their people.  Yet, do the people experience them as failed states or is it just the foreigners who interact with the way things are in the state that conclude it is a failed state as compared to their own personal standards.


  3. We pretty much need a summary sheet or some kind of diagram to summarize all the ways the US is currently violating NAFTA… as for the WTO, well, it’s honestly more honored in breach than observance around the world.

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