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U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports violate international trade rules - WTO

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The World Trade Organization Commission has determined that US tariffs on steel and aluminum are inconsistent with international trade obligations and recommended changes to the tariff program. The United States categorically rejected the WTO decision and officially stated that they would not change anything.

U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports violate international trade rules - WTO

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled today that US Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum, enacted in 2017, violate members' rules. The WTO said that the imposition of tariffs based on a threat to US national security does not stand up to scrutiny.

The commission that considered the case stated that the tariffs were not "imposed in time of war or other emergencies in international relations," as required by Article XXI(b)(iii) of the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

“The Commission recommends that the United States bring its WTO-incompatible measures into line with its obligations under the GATT [General Tariff Agreement and Trade] 1994,” the WTO conclusions said.

In response, the office of US Trade Representative Adam Hodge rejected the decision and said the WTO had no right to “revise” the decision of member countries on security issues.

“The United States categorically rejects the erroneous interpretation and conclusions in the World Trade Organization expert reports released today regarding the challenge to US Section 232 measures on steel and aluminum imposed by the The United States has taken a clear and unequivocal position for more than 70 years that national security issues cannot be considered in dispute resolution at the WTO , and that the WTO has no right to question the ability of a WTO member to respond to a wide range of threats to its security,” Hodge said.

The US “does not intend to eliminate Section 232 duties as a result of these disputes,” he said .

The American Institute of Steel in Washington, DC, also criticized the decision and said that the WTO "once again went beyond its mandate" by questioning measures based on national security.

A US Steel spokesman endorsed the announcement that the government will not eliminate metal tariffs, adding that the company is "confident that this World Trade Organization opinion will not affect Section 232 policy and it will remain in place with il.”

Then-President Donald Trump initially set U.S. import duties of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum on most countries in March 2018, arguing that trade protection was necessary for national security. Tariffs were put in place under Section 232 of the US Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

As of 2018, tariffs have either been completely or partially removed or replaced by a quota system on imports from Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina , Brazil, South Korea, EU, UK and Japan. The tariff breaks and changes were achieved through separate mutual agreements between the US and their respective trading partners, and not as a result of a WTO decision.

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