EU slams trade ‘bullies’ as Trump row deepens

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem said that Europe will not be intimidated by protectionism. (AP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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EU slams trade ‘bullies’ as Trump row deepens

BRUSSELS: The EU said Europe would not waver against trade “bullies” as a row with US President Donald Trump over controversial steel and aluminum tariffs deepened.
The jab from Brussels came after the US president singled out Europe in the surging trade row, threatening to tax German cars if the EU does not lower barriers to US products.
Trump’s threat was part of a dispute sparked by his announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, although the “America First” Trump administration has said it will consider exceptions and has already spared Mexico and Canada.
The announcement of duties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum has stung the EU, coming as a surprise to US allies and to many in Washington.
“In some places trade has been to blame for the pains of globalization or they used it as a scapegoat or they think we can live behind walls and borders,” European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said at a trade conference in Brussels.
“Recently we have seen how it is used as a weapon to threaten and intimidate us. But we are not afraid, we will stand up to the bullies,” she said.
Brussels has pushed back the hardest against Washington’s shock measures, loudly announcing a list of US products — including peanuts and motorcycles — it could hit with countermeasures.
In revealing those measures, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker taunted Trump, saying the EU could match “stupid with stupid.”
Other trade partners, including Japan and China, have also voiced anger and pledged retaliation if the US tariffs are enacted as expected on March 23.
Many traditionally pro-trade Republican lawmakers in the US also fiercely oppose the tariffs, saying they might help steel and aluminum makers, but would mean higher prices on many other products.
Malmstroem held fruitless talks in Brussels on Saturday with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer aimed at defusing the row and avoiding an all-out trade war.
“Dialogue is always the prime option for the EU,” European Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio said at a news briefing.
“But of course the EU also continues the preparations to ensure a firm and proportionate response in line with the WTO rules in the event US measures should be applied,” he added.
The negotiations between the EU and US are to win an exception for Europe from the tariffs, with Brussels seeking clarity on how to achieve that.
The EU said those efforts will continue this week, though no details for further talks have yet been announced.


US unveils new veto threat against WTO rulings

Updated 23 June 2018
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US unveils new veto threat against WTO rulings

  • US tells WTO appeals rulings in trade disputes could be vetoed if they took longer than the allowed 90 days
  • Trump, who has railed against the WTO judges in the past, threatens to levy a 20 percent import tax on European Union cars

GENEVA: The United States ramped up its challenge to the global trading system on Friday, telling the World Trade Organization that appeals rulings in trade disputes could be vetoed if they took longer than the allowed 90 days.
The statement by US Ambassador Dennis Shea threatened to erode a key element of trade enforcement at the 23-year-old WTO: binding dispute settlement, which is widely seen as a major bulwark against protectionism.
It came as US President Donald Trump, who has railed against the WTO judges in the past, threatened to levy a 20 percent import tax on European Union cars, the latest in an unprecedented campaign of threats and tariffs to punish US trading partners.
Shea told the WTO’s dispute settlement body that rulings by the WTO’s Appellate Body, effectively the supreme court of world trade, were invalid if they took too long. Rulings would no longer be governed by “reverse consensus,” whereby they are blocked only if all WTO members oppose them.
“The consequence of the Appellate Body choosing to breach (WTO dispute) rules and issue a report after the 90-day deadline would be that this report no longer qualifies as an Appellate Body report for purposes of the exceptional negative consensus adoption procedure,” Shea said, according to a copy of his remarks provided to Reuters.
An official who attended the meeting said other WTO members agreed that the Appellate Body should stick to the rules, but none supported Shea’s view that late rulings could be vetoed, and many expressed concern about his remarks.
Rulings are routinely late because, the WTO says, disputes are abundant and complex. Things have slowed further because Trump is blocking new judicial appointments, increasing the remaining judges’ already bulging workload.
At Friday’s meeting the United States maintained its opposition to the appointment of judges, effectively signalling a veto of one judge hoping for reappointment to the seven-seat bench in September.
Without him, the Appellate Body will only have three judges, the minimum required for every dispute, putting the system at severe risk of breakdown if any of the three judges cannot work on a case for legal or other reasons.
“Left unaddressed, these challenges can cripple, paralyze, or even extinguish the system,” chief judge Ujal Singh Bhatia said.
Sixty-six WTO member states are backing a petition that asks the United States to allow appointments to go ahead. On Friday, US ally Japan endorsed the petition for the first time, meaning that all the major users of the dispute system were united in opposition to Trump.