EU: U.S. Attempting to Dump Trade Security Issues on Partners

BRUSSELS has accused US legislators of offloading their security concerns on to trading partners by planning to introduce compulsory scanning of all incoming containers, writes Justin Stares in Brussels.

Laszlo Kovacs, European Commissioner responsible for the Customs Union, said the proposed law would require 'major restructuring of European Union ports' and would incur high costs which would ultimately be borne by taxpayers.

'I am extremely concerned by the possible introduction of the US 'HR1' legislation which would introduce 100% scanning of US-bound cargo containers,' he said in a statement.

'Experts on both sides of the Atlantic have already considered this measure to be of no real benefit when it comes to improving security, while it would disrupt trade and cost legitimate EU and US businesses a lot of time and money.'

The law was proceeding despite the lack of results from pilot projects on both sides of the Atlantic, he said.

'This measure has the potential to damage the possibility for EU trade to compete fairly with their US competitors.'

This is the second strongly-worded protest from the EU, echoed by the maritime industry, which believes the measure would be impracticable or even impossible to enforce.

Blanket screening will become necessary by 2012 if the Bill is signed into law by President George Bush, though there is a get-out clause allowing the deadline to be waived 'if necessary'.

Currently, fewer than 10% of boxes are scanned as they enter ports in the EU and US. Customs authorities target containers they consider suspicious using a complex matrix based on the shipper, carrier and origin of the cargo, among other details.