China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has said that the WTO expert panel's ruling contains legal errors regarding the report on the U.S. suing China over the latter’s countermeasures against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. China has filed an appeal with the WTO over the report in accordance with relevant WTO rules, the director of the MOFCOM Department of Treaty and Law said on Tuesday.
The WTO panel issued a report on August 16 saying that China's tariffs imposed in response to duties on steel and aluminum imposed by the U.S. are not consistent with WTO rules.
The MOFOCM director said on Tuesday that the U.S. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum targeted by China's countermeasures are unilateral and protectionist measures, which have been found to violate WTO rules.
However, the U.S. side obstructed the entry into force of a WTO ruling against its tariffs, evaded its enforcement obligations and refused to cancel the illegal tariff measures, the director said.
In August, MOFCOM said that China's countermeasures against the U.S. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed in 2018 were a legitimate act to safeguard its own rights and interests, in response to the WTO panel report.
“We urge the U.S. side to take concrete actions to respect WTO rules and correct its illegal measures as soon as possible. We also urge the U.S. side to work with other WTO members to resume the normal operation of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism at an early date and jointly safeguard the rules-based multilateral trading system,” said the director.
As of December 2022, the U.S. had rejected proposals 60 consecutive times from other members to launch the selection of Appellate Body members at the regular meeting of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), according to a report released in August by MOFCOM.
In 2017, the U.S. initiated Section 232 investigations and imposed tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other products worldwide under the excuse of “national security.” Under this coercion, some WTO members have reached agreements with the U.S. in exchange for tariff exemptions, read the report.
As of February 2023, there were 29 pending appeals, 11 of which were brought by the U.S., accounting for 37.93 percent of the total, according to MOFCOM’s report.
Borderlex, a European trade policy analysis website, published a commentary in February 2023 and stated that “recent U.S. rejection of the WTO dispute settlement panel on Trump era steel and aluminum tariffs suggests Washington can declare any issue one of ‘national security’ in order not to apply rules.”