China, U.S. File WTO Complaints over Tariffs

Today, China has filed another complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in response to the Trump administration’s recently published list of $200 billion worth of Chinese products upon which it wants to implement a 10 percent tariff. That list includes plywood, metals and pigments, enamels and polishes used in the glass industry. Glass frit and other float glass products are also included in the preliminary list.

The U.S. also filed complaints with the WTO today. It filed five separate complaints against Canada, China, the European Union (EU), Mexico and Turkey in response to tariffs each imposed in response to U.S. aluminum and steel tariffs.

“The actions taken by the President are wholly legitimate and fully justified as a matter of U.S. law and international trade rules. Instead of working with us to address a common problem, some of our trading partners have elected to respond with retaliatory tariffs designed to punish American workers, farmers and companies,” said U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in a statement. “These tariffs appear to breach each WTO Member’s commitments under the WTO Agreement. The United States will take all necessary actions to protect our interests, and we urge our trading partners to work constructively with us on the problems created by massive and persistent excess capacity in the steel and aluminum sectors.”

China filed a complaint with the WTO in April over U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs. On July 9, Switzerland filed a request for consultations with the WTO over these tariffs, which went into effect for the EU on June 1 after President Trump did not extend an earlier exemption. The Russian Federation, India, the EU, Canada, Mexico and Norway have also filed for consultations over the steel and aluminum tariffs since China’s original filing.

The U.S. has expressed doubt that the WTO can handle the trade dispute.

At a WTO meeting about the organization’s review of China’s trade policies, Ambassador Dennis Shea said, “It is clear, moreover, that the WTO currently does not offer all of the tools necessary to remedy this situation.”

He cited the need to create new rules to address the unique situation, which would be a complicated process. Shea then defended the tariffs.

“The United States notes that, for many years, it tried to work cooperatively with China through extensive bilateral engagement. As we look back on that engagement, we find no indication that China has been prepared to make the fundamental changes that would be necessary to bring its trade and investment regime into alignment with the regimes of other WTO Members,” he said. “Going forward, the best solution is for China finally to take the initiative to fully and effectively embrace open, market-oriented policies. China knows what needs to be done, and we urge China to take that route.

A statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce published on July 12 reads: “It is fair to say that this largest trade war in the economic history waged by the U.S. is not a trade war between the U.S. and China, but a global trade war. Such U.S. practices will drag the world economy into the ‘cold war trap’, ‘recession trap’, ‘anti-contract trap’ and ‘the trap of uncertainty’, seriously worsen global economic and trade environment, destroy global industrial chain and value chain, hinder global economy recovery, trigger global market fluctuations and hurt the interests of numerous multinationals and average customers in the world.”

The White House has said that the proposed tariffs are in response to an investigation into alleged intellectual property infringement by the Chinese.

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