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Russia launches WTO challenge against US steel, aluminium tariffs

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — Russia on Thursday became the third powerful member of the World Trade Organization to challenge US tariffs on steel and aluminium, following China and the European Union.

Russia adhered to the same tactic used by the EU in challenging the tariffs under the WTO's Safeguards Agreement, even though Washington has not characterised the measures as safeguards.

President Donald Trump's administration has said the steel and aluminium tariffs were needed on national security grounds and are therefore permitted under international trade law.

"Although the United States presented the measures at issue as being adopted to address the threat that imports of steel and aluminium pose to the US national security, they are in essence safeguard measures," a document written by Russia's mission to the WTO said.

Safeguards can be allowed under WTO rules if the country imposing them can prove its domestic industry is under threat from imports.

"The Russian Federation is a WTO Member that has a substantial interest as (an) exporter of the products subject to the safeguard measures," it added, requesting "consultations" with US officials over the issue.

A request for consultations is the first step in a broader WTO challenge.

Unlike Russia and the EU, China has challenged the US tariffs through the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body, another mechanism through which the organisation's 164 members hammer out trade spats.

Trump sparked fears of a trade war in March when he decided to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, primarily to target China, but also EU countries.

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