US rejects WTO’s ‘straitjacket’ of trade obligations

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration filed another salvo at the World Trade Organization on Friday, saying US trade policy was not going to be dictated by the international body and defending its use of tariffs to pressure China and other trade partners.
A report drawn up by the US Trade Representative outlining the White House’s trade agenda for 2019 said the United States will continue to use the Switzerland-based WTO to challenge what it sees as unfair practices.
However, “the United States remains an independent nation, and our trade policy will be made here — not in Geneva. We will not allow the WTO Appellate Body and dispute settlement system to force the United States into a straitjacket of obligations to which we never agreed,” the report said.
The United States has imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports to press its demands for changes to what Washington sees as China’s unfair policies on intellectual property protections, technology transfers, industrial subsidies and domestic market access.
China has challenged the Trump administration’s tariffs in the WTO, arguing that they violate its agreed rules. The case is likely to be ultimately decided by the WTO’s Appellate Body, the world’s top trade court.
The United States must be allowed the “policy space” to address trade problems, the report said.
“That policy space must include the ability to use tariffs or other forms of leverage to persuade other countries to take our concerns seriously,” it said.
The report was not explicit about how the United States would respond to a ruling against it on the issue. — Reuters