Square off at WTO trade policy review session

The United States faced sharp rebukes from some of its main trading partners, as World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries met to review Washington’s controversial policies.
China lashed out against US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports that are at the centre of the trade spat between the two world’s largest economies, while the European Union accused the US of endangering the global economy.
“Whether it is a small family or an international organisation, a top dog should act like a top dog,” Chinese envoy Zhang Xiangchen said. “It cannot only see a narrow spectrum of its own self-interest, and it certainly should not do whatever it wishes at the sacrifice of the others,” he added.
Zhang spoke as the United States took the stand under the WTO’s periodic trade police review process, which scrutinises the world’s largest economies every two years.
US trade ambassador Dennis Shea said that his country is not protectionist, but merely defending itself against countries such as China.
“China’s actions are incompatible with the open, market-based approach expressly envisioned and followed by other WTO members and contrary to the fundamental principles of this organisation and its agreements,” he charged.
Shea said Beijing had been unfairly aiding its own industries by creating excessive manufacturing capacity, while discriminating against foreign companies by forcing them to share technological know-how with China.
The US, on the other hand, has lower average tariffs than its main trade partners, according to Shea.
He did not mention the US tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods that were imposed as punishment for alleged unfair trade practices, such as intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers.
China has retaliated with duties on $110 billion worth of US imports including soybeans, aircraft and cars.
At the WTO session, EU Ambassador Marc Vanheukelen charged that “the multilateral trading system is in a deep crisis and the United States is at its epicentre for a number of reasons.”
Without naming US President Donald Trump, Vanheukelen criticised his focus on trade balances that he claims are tilted against the US, and his unilateral policies.
The EU official reminded his US counterpart that Washington had played a key role in creating the WTO free-trade rules that underpin the growth of global wealth. “The US is putting these achievements at risk,” Vanheukelen concluded.
Washington and Brussels have been working on a framework for a future agreement after a trade dispute erupted in June, when the hiking of US metals tariffs prompted the EU to raise tariffs on US products. — dpa