Industry News

WTO Says Trump’s Steel Tariffs Violate Global Trade


Back in December, the World Trade Organization (WTO) found that tariffs on steel and aluminum imports imposed under former President Trump violate global trade rules. At the time, Trump stated that the duties were a result of national security concerns upon announcing new border taxes in 2018. The WTO stated that these duties did in fact not come at a time of war or another emergency. China, Turkey, Switzerland, and Norway brought the case forward.

The Biden administration condemned this ruling and has no intention of removing the measures. Should the US not abide by the decision, the complaint countries are entitled to impose retaliatory tariffs on the US. The US Trade Representative’s spokesperson, Adam Hodge, stated that the US has held the position for over 70 years that issues of national security cannot be reviewed by the WTO and that the organization has no authority to question a member’s response to security threats. The ruling implies that the US must sit idly by as China and other countries flood its market with steel and aluminum produced with government support. The US will not surrender decision-making over its security to the WTO, said Hodge.

The US has the option to appeal, however, the process will be hindered as the US has blocked appointments to the WTO’s appellate body, leaving it unable to function. China and Switzerland have commented on the ruling, and Norway said it brought the case to prevent protectionism and to protect the rules-based, multilateral trading system. Experts say the dispute has less to do with its practical impact but more with the implications for the increasingly fragile consensus around global trade governance.

Read more about the WTO’s ruling here.