Today’s world is missing a champion of free trade1 min read . Updated: 13 Dec 2022, 04:50 PM IST
The US rejection of a WTO panel’s recommendation asking it to comply with trade rules on steel and aluminium tariffs is a big let-down. Barrier-free trade needs a loud and clear voice
Last week, a dispute resolution panel of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said it had found import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium imposed by the US in 2018 to be inconsistent with global trade norms. The US had done this under its then President Donald Trump, who cited “national security" for what was plainly an effort to win votes by shielding an American ‘rust-belt’ from foreign competition. America later gave its free-trade partners Canada and Mexico a free pass, but the rumble of its drawbridges going up in those two heavy-tonnage markets nearly sounded off a trade war. Retaliatory duties by other countries, including India, were to follow. So also a clutch of protests filed at the WTO. While the Indian and Russian cases are still pending, suits by China, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey yielded Friday’s WTO advice asking the US to conform with its obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), 1994, as the panel had found no evidence that its actions were “taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations" to qualify for exemption under the pact’s Article 21(b)(iii). In response to what’s clearly a valid ruling, US officials made vague calls for WTO reforms, even as trade representative Adam Hodge reportedly stated that “the US will not cede decision-making over its essential security to WTO panels."