Beijing applauds WTO decision that US broke rules


The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that a ruling by the World Trade Organization proved the United States had been breaking international trade rules.

The WTO upheld a complaint by China over additional US duties on US$250 billion (HK$1.95 trillion) of Chinese goods, a decision that sparked outrage in Washington.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a press briefing that China hoped the United States would respect the ruling.

The Geneva-based body has been caught in the middle of trade tensions between the United States and China, and has faced relentless attacks from President Donald Trump.

The tariffs, imposed in 2018, marked the beginning of the trade war between the world's two largest economies.

But a panel of experts - set up by the WTO's dispute settlement body last year to review the US move - ruled the tariffs on Chinese goods were inconsistent with global trade rules, and recommended Washington "bring its measures into conformity with its obligations."

The decision was met with ire in the United States, with Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer saying it proved the WTO "is completely inadequate to stop China's harmful technology practices."

Lighthizer added: "The Trump administration will not let China use the WTO to take advantage of American workers, businesses, farmers and ranchers."

But Beijing welcomed the move as an objective and fair ruling.

"China also hopes that the United States will fully respect the rulings of the expert group, take practical action to meet China and other WTO members halfway, jointly maintain the multilateral trading system, and promote the stable and healthy development of the world economy," a Commerce Ministry spokesman said.

The announcement marks one of the first in a series of panel rulings over complaints filed by a long line of countries over Trump's decision to hit them with steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

The panel said Washington had not shown its measures were justified under trade rules.

In particular, it rejected the US argument that the tariffs were applied to products it said had benefited from practices that the United States considers are contrary to "public morals," like theft, misappropriation and unfair competition.

"The United States had not met its burden of demonstrating how its restrictions contributed to protecting its public morals and did not extend beyond what was necessary," it said.

Lighthizer said in response the US report had cited thousands of pieces of evidence showing China's unfair trade practices, which "have cost US innovators, workers and businesses billions of dollars every year."

He said the WTO ruling showed that it provides no remedy for such misconduct.

Usually parties unhappy with a panel decision can appeal within 60 days.

But that process has been complicated since the WTO appellate body stopped functioning in December after years of relentless US opposition. Washington accuses the court of major overreach and has blocked the appointment of new judges, leaving it without the required quorum.

The European Union, China and other countries have launched a temporary system for appealing trade dispute rulings, but the United States is not taking part.

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