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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., told Wyoming sheep ranchers he would work with the Administration to keep trade sanctions in place that are designed to counter the influx of lamb meat from Australia and New Zealand.

Enzi believes the U.S. must be allowed to protect itself against unfair trade practices to ensure domestic lamb producers are set on an even playing field with foreign producers.

At issue in particular are actions the U.S. has taken to protect its domestic lamb producers and a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against the U.S.

Enzi wants the U.S. to continue a tariff rate quota program which increases tariffs on imported Australia and New Zealand lamb meat, to every extent possible under an unfavorable WTO ruling.

"The restriction of lamb imports has benefitted sheep growers in Wyoming and the nation in their efforts to improve competitiveness," said Enzi. "It is vital that the U.S. fully utilize our trade laws to address this import situation that threatens our lamb industry."

Under section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, the United States began imposing a tarriff-rate quota of 9 percent for imported lamb meat in July 1999. The lamb meat safeguard was set to last three years with tariff rates to vary the second and third years depending on the amount of imports. U.S. producers said Australia and New Zealand were "dumping" lamb meat on the U.S. market at prices lower than production costs.

Australia and New Zealand asked the WTO to review the U.S. quotas. In December 2000, a WTO Dispute Settlement Panel held that the U.S.'s safeguard action violated various provisions of the General Agreement and Tariffs and Trade and the WTO Safeguards Agreements. The U.S. appealed, but the WTO Appellate Body's May 1 report largely upholds the Panel's decision.

Enzi was particularly bothered by WTO's finding that only the few dozen firms that actually slaughter live lambs and process them are eligible for trade safeguard action.

"The ranch families that raise those sheep and provide them for the packers are even more vulnerable than the packers and are in need of help under U.S. trade laws," said Enzi.

Enzi is hopeful the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Trade Representative will be able to revise its lamb meat import safeguards to fit within the WTO decision.

"If the revisions are done in the right fashion I believe the current protections afforded U.S. lamb producers can be maintained through 2002 as scheduled," said Enzi.

Enzi, along with Sen. Craig Thomas, met with members of the Wyoming Wool Growers Thursday in Washington.

Enzi also met Thursday with Michael Thawley, Australia's ambassador to the U.S. to discuss climate change and general trade issues.