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Trump’s tariffs on China violated law, trade body says

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This group report confirms what the Trump administration has been saying for four years: The WTO is completely inadequate in stopping China’s harmful technological practices, Lighthizer said in a statement.

He also stressed that the decision “has no effect on the historic phase one agreement between the United States and China, which includes new binding commitments from China to prevent the theft of American technology. .

Trump and Lighthizer launched the tariff war because they feared Beijing would fail to protect valuable U.S. intellectual property from theft and forced technology transfer.

Instead of going through the usual process of filing a dispute at the WTO and securing the right to impose retaliation, the Trump administration took unilateral action based on a US investigation that found Beijing guilty of major breaches of US intellectual property protection.

“It’s no surprise that the United States has lost this case in a big way,” said Wendy Cutler, a former US trade official. But the most serious impact “will be a further loss of credibility for the WTO, undeniably marginalized from one of the main trade confrontations of recent years,” she added.

The panel also found that Trump’s decision also went against WTO rules by exceeding the maximum tariff rates that the United States had committed to apply as a member of the organization.

The panel rejected the Trump administration’s argument that the WTO had no reason to rule on tariffs because the United States had entered into talks with China to resolve the dispute.

But part of the decision has been stifled in the last two years of trade wars between the world’s two largest economies.

First, China has already hit back on more than $ 100 billion in U.S. exports, which is more or less proportional to the share of Chinese imports that Trump hit.

Second, the United States and China signed a phase one trade deal in January to partially resolve their trade dispute, though most tariffs remain in place.

Third, the Trump administration has crippled the WTO Appellate Body by blocking the appointment of new judges.

This action also prevents the United States from overturning the decision on appeal. But it also blocks a final decision on the matter, hampering Beijing’s right to obtain permission to continue its retaliation against the US Lighthizer gave no indication of intention to appeal in its statement.

“The only immediate consequence would be if Trump used this as an excuse to withdraw from the WTO,” said Bill Reinsch, trade policy specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It would be an economic and political mistake, and I imagine Lighthizer would advise against it, arguing that we can keep doing what we were doing anyway. But with Trump, you never know.”

Trump initially imposed tariffs on $ 50 billion of Chinese goods in 2018, in separate batches of $ 34 billion and $ 16 billion.

After Beijing retaliated in response to those rights, it unleashed a direct trade war affecting more and more goods on both sides of the Pacific.

China challenged the first batch of duties at the WTO in July 2018 and filed two more cases in August 2018 and September 2019 in response to Trump’s rulings. Tuesday’s decision stems from the first case.

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