India looking to approach WTO if US imposes ‘selective’ steel, aluminium tariffs

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on March 08, 2018 Published on March 08, 2018

Will wait for Trump administration’s final decision on the matter, says govt official

India is largely unaffected by the increase in import tariffs on washing machines and solar panels brought about by the US but may raise a dispute at the World Trade Organisation if duties are raised selectively on steel and aluminium and it is among the targeted countries.

“If the US stretches a domestic law to restrict imports of steel and aluminium on the ground that it is impacting national security and apply it selectively on a handful of countries, we don’t think it will stand the scrutiny of the WTO,” a government official told BusinessLine.

New Delhi is adopting the strategy of ‘wait and watch’ as the Trump administration is yet to implement its proposal of imposing tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium despite the US President threatening to do so early this month.

“We believe the US government has not yet decided whether to impose the higher tariffs on select countries or all trade partners. We will have to see what the final decision is before we decide on how to react,” the official said.

However, if there is selective imposition of tariff, New Delhi will not hesitate to take up the matter at the WTO, he added.

Donald Trump’s intention of imposing increased import tariffs on steel and aluminium follows a US Commerce Department investigation which indicated that imported metal threatened national security by degrading the American industrial base.

It suggested that an import tariff of 24 per cent be imposed on all trade partners or a higher tariff be imposed on 12 identified countries which include China, Canada, Brazil and India.

“How can the US get away with the argument that steel imports from India, Canada or China threatens its national security while imports from Peru or Panama doesn’t?” the official argued.

South Korea has already approached the WTO against the US decision to impose “safeguard tariffs’’ of up to 30 per cent on solar cells and 50 per cent on large washing machines. It has sought consultations with the US and if the issue is not resolved it will lead to a full-fledged dispute.

Published on March 08, 2018
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