TRADE

U.S. to Cut Softwood Lumber Duties

The U.S. Commerce Department said it will comply with a NAFTA panel's order to significantly cut duties on Canadian softwood lumber. U.S. officials said they disagree with the rationale behind the ruling but respect its authority. Canada accounts for about one-third of the U.S. market for softwood, which is easily sawed pine, spruce and other wood used in building houses.

The decision means the United States will reduce the punitive duties, which average about 16 percent, to less than 1 percent. Separate antidumping tariffs averaging about 4 percent will not be affected.

No Deal Expected in Hong Kong

The United States, the European Union and other nations acknowledged that there will be no agreement on a framework for a global trade treaty next month. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, who hosted a meeting in Geneva with trade ministers from the E.U., India, Japan and Brazil, said that the World Trade Organization members still could reach a deal next year and that the meeting in Hong Kong could make progress toward resolving disputes over tariffs and subsidies in farm trade, manufactured goods and services.

EUROPEAN UNION

Advocate Opposes Airline Data-Sharing

An agreement between the European Union and the United States that allows the release of information on airline passengers to U.S. authorities should be overturned, Advocate General Philippe Leger said in an opinion.

The agreement was signed and took effect in May 2004, but the European Parliament objected, claiming that the deal did not sufficiently protect the privacy of passengers. The parliament appealed to the European Court of Justice. The court usually follows the advice of its advocate general. A judgment is expected next year. If the court annuls the deal, it would have to be renegotiated between the parties or E.U. airlines could have problems flying to the United States.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.