World Trade Organization calls out US for illegal tariffs on China

Trump CHINA TARIFFS
China President XI JingPing and US President Donald Trump | PHOTO COURTESY

A World Trade Organization panel ruled Tuesday that Trump administration tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods are illegal.

The move vindicates Beijing, even if the United States has all but incapacitated the WTO’s ability to hand down a final, binding verdict.

The decision marks the first time that the Geneva-based trade body has ruled against a series of high-profile tariffs that President Donald Trump’s government has imposed on a number of countries.

The ruling, in theory, would allow China to impose retaliatory tariffs on billions’ worth of U.S. goods.

But it is unlikely to have much practical impact, at least in the short term, because the U.S. can appeal the decision and the WTO’s appeals court is currently no longer functioning — largely because of Washington’s single-handed refusal to accept new members for it.

In its decision, the WTO’s dispute settlement body ruled against the U.S. government’s argument that China has wrongly engaged in practices harmful to U.S. interests on issues including intellectual property theft and technology transfer — and it quickly drew criticism of U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer.

“This panel report confirms what the Trump administration has been saying for four years: The WTO is completely inadequate to stop China’s harmful technology practices,” Lighthizer said in a statement.

He said the United States had presented “extensive evidence” of China’s intellectual property theft and the WTO has offered no fixes for it.

“The United States must be allowed to defend itself against unfair trade practices, and the Trump administration will not let China use the WTO to take advantage of American workers, businesses, farmers and ranchers,” he added.

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The Chinese ministry of commerce said the ruling was “objective and fair” and called on the U.S. to respect it.

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