March 12-Amid the backdrop of newly announced tariffs on steel and aluminum in the United States, trade representatives from the European Union and Japan met with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Brussels on Saturday to join forces against “unfair” competition undermining “the proper functioning of international trade.”
It’s a timely discussion considering the new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, scheduled to take effect March 23. Both the EU and Japan are expected to apply for exclusions from the tariffs.
EU, Japan Seek Tariff Exemptions
Amid other topics, the trade representatives discussed the new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. Japan and the EU are considering taking actions, as permitted within World Trade Organization rules.
“We expressed our concern. It could disrupt the steel and aluminum markets of the world and have a negative impact,” Japan’s Minister of Economy Hiroshige Seko, told reporters, as reported by Reuters, after Saturday’s meeting. “If there is a violation, then we will seek consultations. We will look at the impact on Japanese businesses and make a final decision.”
In a similar vein, European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström reiterated concerns about the tariffs that she expressed last week. Using her official Twitter account, she said she would seek clarity on the procedure for applying for an exemption.
Fight Industrial Subsidies & ‘Unfair’ Competition
Meanwhile, the trade representatives agreed to work together within the WTO to enforce existing trade rules, develop new rules on industrial state subsidies, improve WTO monitoring, exchange information about government screening of foreign investments, develop guidelines for export credits, and share more information about trade-distorting practices.
According to their joint readout of the discussions, unfair trade practices include non market-oriented practices that lead to severe overcapacity, such as industrial state subsidies.
Trump’s Trade Agenda & the WTO
The intensified trade diplomacy comes at a time when some members of the Trump Administration are questioning the effectiveness and viability the WTO as the world’s trade authority.
As outlined in President Trump’s recently released Trade Agenda Report, the United States favors a more open process in WTO dispute settlement proceedings and new guidelines on how the public can participate. Furthermore, the USTR report calls for more progress on trade liberalization between Ministerial negotiating conferences.
In short, the United States would work with others to promote “more efficient markets, more trade and greater wealth for our citizens,” a USTR press release about the report said. “However, the United States is also concerned that the WTO is not operating as the contracting parties envisioned and, as a result, is undermining America’s ability to act in its national interest.”
by subsidies, trade, ustr, wto