Commentary: US Section 232 challenges WTO rules

The US launched five separate WTO dispute actions on Monday challenging the countermeasures taken by China, EU, Canada, Mexico, and Turkey following US tariffs on steel and aluminum. The US claimed that its new tariffs are meant to protect national security and fight unfair trade practices.

From the perspective of the US, the retaliatory measures by the five countries are in violation of WTO rules. But what about the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs by the US? This section in fact puts domestic law above international trade rules and is responsible for the trade war.

Trump has repeatedly suggested pulling the US out of the WTO, according to US media. The WTO, previously known as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), was originally an important part of the global economic system set up by the US after World War II. It was an international agreement led by major developed countries, including the US and countries in Europe, with the aim of fighting trade protectionism and regulating and promoting international trade.

Then why is the US so eager to get rid of the well-regulated system and the international trade agreement that was once dominated by it alone? Is the WTO changing or is the US changing?

The WTO has not changed albeit improvements designed to enhance its functions. What has really changed is the US, which is steadily moving in the opposite direction of the system it has built.

In the era of globalization, emerging economies are rising rapidly, and the global trading system, logistics, supply chains, and production chains have undergone profound changes. Emerging economies have benefited a lot, and the US and other developed countries have reaped huge benefits as well. However, relatively speaking, the US control over the global trade chains, production chains, and value chains is not as powerful as in the past.

According to Joseph Nye, an American political scientist, the US intense agitation reveals the decline of American hegemony.

The best way of responding to trade bullying is to uphold the multilateral rule-based trading system of the WTO and defend its dignity. This is the basic responsibility of each member. International economic and trade disputes must be resolved by WTO rules.

Since China’s entry into the WTO in 2001, China has strictly fulfilled its commitments and has made tremendous contributions to global trade and economic development through its own development. The US accusation against China is groundless and will not shake China’s determination to promote reform and opening-up and to firmly uphold the principles of the WTO. China will never make any concessions on the major issues concerning the rules of international trade.