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WTO lets China impose tariffs on U.S. in Obama-era case

01/26/2022 | 10:30am EDT
FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the WTO in Geneva

BRUSSELS, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization authorized China on Wednesday to impose $645 million of compensatory tariffs against the United States, a ruling that was immediately blasted by Washington.

China went to the WTO in 2012 to challenge anti-subsidy tariffs the United States imposed between 2008 and 2012, mainly during the term of U.S. President Barack Obama, on 22 Chinese products ranging from solar panels to steel wire.

The decade-long case involving alleged subsidies has centered on whether the United States could treat Chinese firms in which the government owns a majority stake as controlled by the state.

The United States, which has argued that China benefits from easier treatment at the WTO while subsidizing manufactured goods and dumping them on world markets, said the decision underscored the need to reform WTO rules that had been used to "shield China’s non-market economic practices and undermine fair, market-oriented competition."

"The deeply disappointing decision today by the WTO arbitrator reflects erroneous Appellate Body interpretations that damage the ability of WTO members to defend our workers and businesses from China’s trade-distorting subsidies," Adam Hodge, spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative's Office, said in a statement.

China had initially asked the three-person WTO panel to award it the right to impose tariffs on $2.4 billion of U.S. goods.

The actual award is dwarfed by U.S. tariffs on more than $300 billion of Chinese goods imposed by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, most of which are still in place.

However, the ruling was another symbolic victory for Beijing at the Geneva-based trade body. In November 2019, the WTO awarded China the right to retaliatory tariffs of $3.58 billion after finding fault with the way Washington determined whether Chinese products are being dumped on the U.S. market.

"The ruling once again attested that the United States has long violated WTO rules, abused trade remedy measures and refused to fulfill its international obligations ordered by WTO or stipulated in WTO rules. This has seriously damaged the fair and just international trade environment," Gao Feng, spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce, said on Thursday.

"China urges the U.S. to stop looking for excuses and immediately take action to correct its wrongdoings in trade remedy investigations against China," Gao told a news conference. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington and Stella Qiu in Beijing Editing by Mark Potter, Jonathan Oatis and Mark Heinrich)

ę Reuters 2022
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