I had been wondering if the U.S. would bring WTO complaints against the tariffs applied by various governments in retaliation for the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs. USTR has just announced that it will:
The United States today launched separate disputes at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Turkey, challenging the tariffs each WTO Member imposed in response to President Trump’s actions on trade in aluminum and steel to protect the United States’ national security interests.
The U.S. steel and aluminum duties imposed by President Trump earlier this year are justified under international agreements the United States and its trading partners have approved. However, retaliatory duties on U.S. exports imposed by China, the EU, Canada, Mexico and Turkey are completely without justification under international rules.
“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. “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.”
There were many discussions last week at the G2 and SIEL conferences about the Trump administration's intentions with regard to WTO dispute settlement. Does the administration want to maintain the system at all, and is it willing engage in good faith reform efforts? Or is it simply taking steps that it expects will lead to the system's demise? In the context of those discussions, if you are looking for positive signs, you could see these complaints as an indication that the administration does still believe in the system.