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US cargo scanning law unfair- EU envoy

A US law requiring the European Union and other countries to eventually scan all cargo headed to the United States forces other countries to pay for US security -- without getting the same benefit in return.

“There’s no reciprocity here,” John Bruton, the European Commission’s ambassador to the US, said in an interview with Reuters reporters. “Our exporters are being asked to bear costs for the benefit of the United States, which the United States is not prepared to bear for others.” The law signed last year by President George W. Bush requires by 2012 that all seaborne containers be scanned for radiation before they leave port for the United States to check that they do not contain nuclear weapons. The legislation would require European ports to make massive new infrastructure investments to keep goods flowing smoothly to the United States, Bruton said. “There just isn’t places to put all these trucks that would be queuing up to be scanned,” Bruton said. “But most of all, we know the United States isn’t proposing to scan 100% of the containers destined for Europe. We could have a terrorist attack just as much as the United States could,” he said.

The US and the EU already have “risk-based” container-security programs aimed at helping identify any deadly cargo headed toward their shore. Both programs extend simplified customs checks to companies, that provide detailed information about their supply chain and have been approved for the program by customs authorities. Last year, the United States and the EU agreed to work toward mutual recognition of each other’s program sometime in 2009. EU officials hope that would help persuade Congress to repeal the 100% scanning requirement.

In the interview, Bruton also stressed the deep and growing economic ties between the US and EU. While bilateral trade is huge, it accounts for only about 20% of the economic flows across the Atlantic, he said. The other 80% is US company investment in the EU and EU company investment in the United States, he said. As the United States and the EU work on creating a “barrier-free” transatlantic marketplace, they should focus on creating new business opportunities for each other’s banks, airlines and other service providers, he said. An “open skies” pact liberalizing airline travel between the US and the EU would yield more benefits from the Doha round of world trade talks, he said. (Reuters)