America’s global trade war has finally arrived at the WTO.
Seven countries — including Mexico, Canada and the European Union — are disputing U.S. tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum at a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Geneva on Monday. China is asking the international trade body to review the tariffs on roughly half its exports to the United States. The U.S. is fighting back with complaints about Chinese counter-tariffs.
Rarely has the WTO faced so many disputes about a handful of actions, experts say. But President Donald Trump’s pursuit of protectionist trade policies has stoked nationalism around the globe. His disregard for international rules of the road has forced other countries to sidestep the system as well. And the WTO is struggling to keep up with the changing tides.
“The Trump administration has significantly increased their workload,” said Matt Gold, a law professor at Fordham University and a top trade official under President Barack Obama. “The United States has brought the whole system to a halt.”
Monday’s closed-door meeting of the WTO’s dispute settlement body was the first time countries were collectively able to confront each other and air their grievances over the Trump tariffs. Statements released afterward suggested the discussion got heated.
“This collective resort to dispute settlement reflects the serious concern of the WTO Membership over the United States’ actions,” Norway said in a statement.
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