Protectionism decried; WTO report on Chinese countermeasures to be studied
China has urged the United States to immediately lift the additional tariffs imposed on Chinese steel and aluminum imports as they violate rules of the World Trade Organization, the Ministry of Commerce said in Beijing late on Wednesday.
A ministry official made the remarks while responding to a WTO dispute settlement panel report about the countermeasures adopted by Beijing for Washington's Section 232 tariff measures related to steel and aluminum products.
The WTO panel found that China's measure to impose additional duties is inconsistent with certain articles of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It also recommended that China should ensure its measure is in conformity with its GATT obligations.
China has taken note of the WTO panel finding and is studying the report, and will follow up on it in accordance with WTO rules, the official said, adding that the case is rooted in the unilateralism and protectionism acts of the U.S..
"The countermeasures taken by China pursuant to the law are a legitimate move to safeguard the country's legitimate rights and interests," the official said.
Since March 2018, the U.S. has been overstretching the concept of national security and imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum exports to the U.S. from many WTO members, including China, the official said.
Such measures by the U.S. triggered widespread discontent, and China and several other members have resorted to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism in order to protect their own interests. In December 2022, the WTO ruled that the U.S. measures were in breach of WTO rules, the official said.
China's exports of steel and aluminum products to the U.S. stayed at a modest level. Furthermore, the trade cooperation is based on the strong complementarity of the two countries and follows market rules, which is conducive to both sides, said Zhou Shijian, a senior researcher on China-U.S. trade relations at Tsinghua University.
The U.S.' misconduct flouted the rule-based trade system, infringed the basic principles of market economy and disrupted fair competition, which will exacerbate trade frictions and affect normal business decisions, he said.
"However, the U.S. clung obstinately to its wrong course, obstructed the entry into force of the ruling by WTO panel, evaded its obligations and refused to remove the illegal tariff measures," the ministry official said.
"China demands the U.S. should immediately cancel the steel and aluminum Section 232 measures that go against WTO rules and work with other WTO members in the same direction, to safeguard the rule-based multilateral trading system," the official said.
Last week, the Ministry of Commerce released China's first report comprehensively revealing excessive violations of WTO rules by the U.S.. The report disclosed that since 2017, the U.S. government had adopted a series of unilateral and trade protectionist measures and pursued an "America First "approach.
Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, in particular, has become a major tool for the U.S. to launch "trade wars". The U.S. initiated investigations on imports including steel, aluminum, automobiles, transformers and portable cranes, and has implemented import-restrictive measures, including imposing tariffs or quantitative restrictions, according to the report.
By placing its self-interest first, the U.S. repeatedly abused the concept of national security to arbitrarily impose tariffs on imports, exercise export controls and scrutinize investments within and even outside the country, said Li Haidong, a professor of U.S. studies at China Foreign Affairs University.
Such wrongdoings have dealt a body blow to normal trade exchanges, technological cooperation and investment access for the global business community, Li said, adding the U.S. actions also dampened the efforts of countries around the world to sustain the momentum of global economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions.
The Ministry of Commerce report showed that the number of Section 232 investigations from 2017 to 2022 represents nearly a quarter of all Section 232 investigations initiated by the U.S. in the past 60 years.