India asks WTO to set up panel against US for imposing higher duties on steel, aluminium

Amiti Sen | | Updated on: Nov 20, 2018
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Dispute Settlement Body to take up the issue at a meeting in Geneva today

India has asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to set up a dispute settlement panel against the US for imposing penal duties on its steel and aluminium as consultations between the two members initiated earlier this year did not yield any results.

China, the EU, Mexico, Canada, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Switzerland, who were similarly penalised by the US, have also asked the dispute settlement body (DSB) of the WTO to set up a panel to sort out the issue, as per the DSB agenda available with BusinessLine .

“The DSB, which will meet in Geneva on Wednesday, will examine all the requests. If the US rejects the first-time requests, members will have to file a second request in the next meeting, which would not be allowed to be rejected and panels will be subsequently constituted,” according to a trade official.

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. The US contended that the tariffs were imposed owing to national security concerns and the WTO had no authority to adjudicate on the matter.

All the affected countries, including India, rejected the move and said the tariffs were actually ‘safeguard duties’ imposed wrongly, in violation of WTO rules, to protect local industries and should be removed.

Several affected countries, including China, Canada, the EU and Mexico, imposed retaliatory tariffs against US goods equivalent to the 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 but is yet to impose it.

“It is unlikely that India will be able to sort out the aluminium and steel dispute with the US through the retaliation route. Although WTO disputes take a long time to get results, it seems to be the only feasible option,” another official said.

WTO disputes are likely to take longer to be sorted out now with the US holding up the selection of new judges for the panels to fill vacancies.

A joint request by a large number of WTO members requesting the DSB to allow a mechanism for continuation of Appellate Body appointments will also be considered. The proposal is from countries including India, China, Argentina, the EU, Brazil, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Venezuela, Singapore, Switzerland and Mexico.

Published on November 20, 2018

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