The World Trade Organisation looks likely to open a probe into the legitimacy of recent US tariffs on Chinese imports, threatening to intensify trade tensions between the two countries.
China has lodged two official complaints to the WTO since the Trump administration came into power in 2017, as have dozens of countries around the world. The appeal set to be investigated claims that duties on $250 billion of Chinese goods violates the WTO principal of equal treatment to all member states.
“This WTO case is especially significant because it deals with the central international legal issue in the US conduct of its trade war with China — whether the U.S. can impose trade restrictions on China in response to alleged Chinese WTO violations without first seeking dispute settlement in the WTO,” James Bacchus, a former head of the WTO’s appellate body, told Bloomberg. “I believe these US tariffs are inconsistent with WTO obligations, but it will be left to my successors on the WTO appellate body to decide.”
The first Chinese filing was vetoed by the US, who are currently blocking the appointment of a new judge for the WTO’s decision-making board. Washington has accused the WTO of extending past its remit, and is using the block to induce constitutional reforms.