Countries Mull WTO Retaliation for Trump’s Metal Tariffs

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By Bryce Baschuk

Various World Trade Organization members will move forward with their domestic processes this week to retaliate against President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia and Turkey have already pledged to impose $3.45 billion worth of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods before June 20.

Separately, Canada and Mexico are preparing to impose retaliatory duties on billions of dollars worth of U.S. goods, like steel aluminum, and agricultural products.

The move follows the Trump administration’s decision to extend its steel and aluminum tariffs to the EU, Canada and Mexico on May 31.

The move increased the risks of a global trade war and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo warned WTO members to proceed cautiously in order to avoid one.

“I have been urging countries and WTO members to think carefully before we embark on a trade war,” Azevedo told Bloomberg Law in a May 31 interview in Paris. “Once you get down that road it is much more difficult to backtrack and reverse course.”

EU Readies Tariffs

The European Commission will soon present a proposal to EU member states that details the amount of duties the EU will impose on U.S. goods, like motorcycles, bourbon whiskey, and agricultural goods.

Last month, the EU submitted a list to WTO that it plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on 2.8 billion euros ($3.2 billion) worth of U.S. goods.

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem told Bloomberg Law that the commission will refine its list of tariffs and then notify the WTO of their implementation as soon as June 18.

“Our people have already started to prepare,” Malmstroem told Bloomberg Law on the sidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development meeting in Paris.

IMF, UNCTAD, Trade Dialogues

Azevedo will head to Washington, D.C., June 4 to deliver a keynote address at the International Monetary Conference.

Also on June 4, Malmstroem will travel to Geneva to attend the 65th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s Trade and Development Board meeting.

The U.S. and China are expected to spar over the issue of technology transfers during a June 5-6 meeting of the WTO council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs).

The U.S. and China are engaged in dispute consultations connected to a U.S. WTO complaint that China’s laws and regulations violate the WTO TRIPs Agreement.

On June 6, Azevedo will meet with Canadian Minister of Labor Patty Hajdu at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva.

On June 7, international business groups will convene in Geneva for the 2018 WTO trade dialogue to discuss the state of global trade negotiations on issues like e-commerce and investment. Participants will include the Brussels-based Confederation of European Business, among others.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Geneva at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton in Washington at

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