The World Trade Organization ruled decisively Tuesday that President Donald Trump violated global trade rules when he unilaterally imposed tariffs on what became more than $350 billion worth of Chinese goods.
The ruling trade body sided against the United States on a number of points, including that the Trump administration did not provide a convincing explanation of why the tariffs were allowed under a provision that lets countries take emergency trade actions “to protect public morals.”
The panel also found that the additional duties Trump imposed on Chinese goods violated the WTO’s key “most-favored nation principle,” which requires the United States and other countries to apply the same tariffs on imports from all other members.
In practical terms, however, the ruling may not have much effect, partly because of counter-tariffs that China has already imposed and a deal the two sides reached.
Rather than acknowledge the defeat, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spun the decision as a validation of Trump’s go-it-alone approach to confronting China, based on the idea WTO rules are not able to control Beijing’s behavior.
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