U.S. tar­iffs on China are il­le­gal, says world trade body

Miami Herald - - Business - BY JAMEY KEATEN As­so­ci­ated Press

A World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion panel ruled Tues­day that Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion tar­iffs on $200 bil­lion worth of Chi­nese goods are il­le­gal, vin­di­cat­ing 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 Genev­abased trade body has ruled against a se­ries of high­pro­file tar­iffs that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s gov­ern­ment has im­posed on a num­ber of coun­tries, in­clud­ing al­lies. Trump has re­peat­edly claimed that the WTO treats the U.S. un­fairly.

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 short­term, be­cause the U.S. can ap­peal the de­ci­sion and the WTO’s ap­peals court is cur­rently no longer func­tion­ing — largely be­cause of Wash­ing­ton’s 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 in­tel­lec­tu­al­prop­erty 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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