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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Trade Allies Plot Strategy To Counter Cuba Law

GENEVA -- Furious U.S. trade partners Tuesday weighed how to respond to new U.S. legislation they see as aimed at dragging them into a tightened embargo against communist Cuba.

Envoys from several trading powers said the measure, which was signed into law Tuesday by U.S. President Bill Clinton, could be challenged in the World Trade Organization -- though some conceded there was a reluctance to follow that path.

"It is an outrageous attempt to extend U.S. domestic law into the international arena, but we have to think carefully about how we react," said one key trade ambassador.

Diplomats in other WTO missions, who asked not to be identified, voiced similar feelings. Some cited European press commentary condemning U.S. "hysteria" over Cuba and its aging leader, President Fidel Castro.

The bill, drawn up by conservative Republicans in Congress, was originally rejected by Clinton. He switched stance after Havana shot down two small planes allegedly flown into Cuban airspace by Cuban exiles. Known as the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act, it aims to achieve Castro's ouster by heightening pressure on his country's precarious but now reforming economy.

The bill gives Cuban-Americans and any U.S. citizen the right to sue foreign individuals and firms who take part in joint ventures in Cuba using property confiscated since Castro came to power in 1959. It would also bar sale to the United States of products from third countries with Cuban components -- like the island's major export, sugar.

The bill has brought a flood of condemnation from the European Union, Canada and Latin American countries. Many say they are considering seeking a ruling in the WTO, launched in January last year with tight dispute settlement rules that Washington played a key role in shaping. Canada with Cuba, and Mexico also have indicated they might invoke legal clauses in the North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States to try to counter the bill.