Law & Order

WTO Rules Against U.S. Steel and Aluminum Tariffs, But USTR Rejects Decision

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the Section 232 tariffs imposed in 2018 by President Trump did not qualify under the claim of U.S. national security. The ruling applies to steel and aluminum imported from China, Turkey, Norway and Switzerland. The tariffs were global in scope when first imposed but the United States has subsequently entered into agreements with many other countries to set metal import quotas and not challenge tariffs previously imposed. These countries include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Great Britain, Japan, Mexico and South Korea. SEMA has opposed the tariffs since they hurt U.S. companies and consumers and have failed to address global metal overproduction, primarily by China.

Although it has taken four years to secure a ruling from the WTO, the issue remains unsettled. The U.S. Trade Representative stated that it does not intend to lift the disputed tariffs on the basis that the WTO has no authority to question the claim of a national security threat. The United States has 60 days to appeal or accept the ruling. Even if appealed, the WTO’s Appellate Body is currently not hearing cases since the United States has blocked new nominations to fill vacancies on the board. The United States contends that the WTO must first make reforms to its dispute settlement system.

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