US rejects India’s first request for WTO dispute panels on steel, aluminium

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on November 22, 2018

India and Switzerland will have to apply again at the dispute settlement body's next meeting. File Photo   -  Reuters

India to appeal again

The US has rejected the first requests for panels by India and Switzerland at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to settle the issue of penal duties imposed on their steel and aluminium by Washington. The two countries will now have to apply again at the dispute settlement body's (DSB) next meeting which the US will not be authorised to reject.

“The two argued that the US actions were, in effect and content, safeguard measures and that they were both concerned the US was using national security as a justification for the tariffs,” a Geneva-based official told BusinessLine.

At the meeting of the DSB on Wednesday, the second requests of seven members including China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico, Norway, Russia and Turkey to challenge the decision by the United States to impose additional import duties on steel and aluminium products, was accepted.

The Trump administration imposed an additional 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium imports against the complainants in March this year. The US contended that the tariffs were imposed owing to national security concerns and the WTO had no authority to adjudicate on the matter.

At the DSB meeting, the US objected to the request for a single panel made by the seven members to look at their similar complaints and said that the DSB should decide on such matters through consensus. “Apart from the similarity between the cases, the reason why the members had asked for a single panel was also the fact that the DSB was short of judges as the appointments process has been stalled by the US for the last few months and vacancies are not being filled,” the official said.

In its submission, Switzerland said the US tariffs will have a harmful effect on the multilateral trading system as a whole and that it was concerned the spiralling protectionist measures will have a negative effect on global value chains. India said it shared the view that the WTO system will be undermined if it fails to allow for review of another member's unilateral actions.

Some members such as China, Canada, the EU and Mexico have already imposed retaliatory tariffs against US goods equivalent to the estimated loss suffered by their steel and aluminium sectors due to the higher tariffs. India announced retaliatory tariffs totalling around $134 million on 29 American items in June this year but is yet to impose it.

Published on November 22, 2018

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