China’s slams US ‘arrogance’ on WTO status

Trump’s memo said the WTO, which operates a global system of trade rules and settles disputes, uses “an outdated dichotomy between developed and developing countries that has allowed some WTO members to gain unfair advantages.” (AFP)
Updated 29 July 2019

China’s slams US ‘arrogance’ on WTO status

  • Trump’s WTO memo is widely seen as a swipe at China

BEIJING: China Monday said the US threat to pull recognition of China’s “developing nation” status at the World Trade Organization showed its “arrogance and selfishness,” ahead of crucial trade talks this week.
The reaction followed a memo issued on Friday by President Donald Trump to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, stressing that some countries were enjoying lenient treatment by “improperly” identifying themselves as developing economies.
The memo is widely seen as a swipe at China.
The Trump administration’s demand “further exposed its wayward arrogance and selfishness,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing Monday.
One or a few countries “should not have the final say” on which nations should be categorized as developing countries, Hua said.
She insisted that China needs to maintain its status as a developing economy to “achieve real trade fairness.”
Trump’s memo said the WTO, which operates a global system of trade rules and settles disputes, uses “an outdated dichotomy between developed and developing countries that has allowed some WTO members to gain unfair advantages.”
Without “substantial progress” to reform WTO rules within 90 days, Washington will no longer treat as a developing country any WTO member “improperly declaring itself a developing country and inappropriately seeking the benefit of flexibilities in WTO rules and negotiations,” said the statement, which focused mostly on China.
The memo came ahead of meetings in Shanghai on Tuesday and Wednesday between US and Chinese negotiators aiming to resolve a trade dispute that has led to tariffs on more than $360 billion worth of two-way trade involving the world’s two largest economies.
Washington “obviously timed the memo to serve as a new bargaining chip” in the trade talks, the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary.
“But the tactic of imposing pressure is nothing new to China and has never worked,” it said.
Xinhua added that the US government’s “latest hegemonic attempt” to coerce the WTO “is destined to hit a wall of opposition.”
Developing country status in the WTO allows governments longer timelines for implementing free trade commitments, as well as the ability to protect some domestic industry and maintain subsidies.
But Jennifer Hillman, a former top US trade official who served at the WTO, has said the benefits granted to countries with the special status in most cases has long passed.
The Trump administration has long complained that WTO rules are unfair to the United States, and has nearly throttled significant WTO proceedings by refusing to name new members of the appellate body for the dispute settlement system, which will cease to function later this year.
Despite Trump’s criticisms Washington has, in fact, won the majority of complaints it has filed with the WTO.


France ready to take Trump’s tariff threat to WTO

Updated 08 December 2019

France ready to take Trump’s tariff threat to WTO

  • Macron government will discuss a global digital tax with Washington at the OECD, says finance minister

PARIS: France is ready to go to the World Trade Organization to challenge US President Donald Trump’s threat to put tariffs on French goods in a row over a French tax on internet companies, its finance minister said on Sunday.

“We are ready to take this to an international court, notably the WTO, because the national tax on digital companies touches US companies in the same way as EU or French companies or Chinese. It is not discriminatory,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France 3 television. Paris has long complained about US digital companies not paying enough tax on revenues earned in France.

In July, the French government decided to apply a 3 percent levy on revenue from digital services earned in France by firms with more than €25 million in French revenue and €750 million ($845 million) worldwide. It is due to kick in retroactively from the start of 2019.

Washington is threatening to retaliate with heavy duties on imports of French cheeses and luxury handbags, but France and the EU say they are ready to retaliate in turn if Trump carries out the threat. Le Maire said France was willing to discuss a global digital tax with the US at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but that such a tax could not be optional for internet companies.

“If there is agreement at the OECD, all the better, then we will finally have a global digital tax. If there is no agreement at OECD level, we will restart talks at EU level,” Le Maire said.

He added that new EU Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni had already proposed to restart such talks.

France pushed ahead with its digital tax after EU member states, under the previous executive European Commission, failed to agree on a levy valid across the bloc after opposition from Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The new European Commission assumed office on Dec. 1.