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Since last year, the Trump Administration has imposed tariffs ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent on nearly all imports of Chinese goods.  Now, the Administration is set to impose an additional $300 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods as of September 1, 2019, that will cover all remaining goods, the so-called “List 4”

On Friday, April 5th, a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel issued its decision in a landmark dispute between Russia and Ukraine.  The dispute, Russia – Measures Concerning Traffic In Transit, marks the first time a WTO panel has been tasked with determining whether it has jurisdiction to review actions taken by a WTO Member to protect its own national security interests.

The dispute was brought by Ukraine in September 2016 after Russia imposed various restrictions preventing Ukraine from using Russian road and rail transit to trade goods destined for Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.  In defense, Russia claimed that its actions were not subject to WTO review because they constituted actions necessary to protect Russia’s “essential security interests” during an “emergency in international relations” between Russia and Ukraine.  Actions taken by a WTO Member during a war or an emergency in international relations are excepted from WTO review pursuant to Article XXI of the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade 1994 (GATT).  The Trump Administration has cited Article XXI as exempting from WTO jurisdiction its decision to impose duties on imports of steel and aluminum products pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (Section 232). 
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On Tuesday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testified before the Senate Finance Committee to discuss a question that is central to the Trump Administration’s trade policy agenda:  What is the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO)?  As the 25th anniversary of the 1994 creation of the WTO (in its current form) approaches, the Trump Administration has been vocal in its criticism of the WTO’s shortcomings and failure to abide by the text of the agreements as written in 1994.  The Administration has pledged, as part of its overall trade policy, to seek critical reforms that will improve and reform the WTO’s functions going forward.  And, as Senator Wyden put it, trade issues including WTO challenges are one of the least known and biggest problems facing the United States’ ability to create good paying jobs and to expand our markets.

Ambassador Lighthizer answered questions on a number of topics relating to the WTO and, more generally, current U.S. trade policies:
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European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström was in Washington, D.C. last week for exploratory trade talks with U.S. officials.  Although Malmström does not yet have a mandate to move ahead on EU-U.S. trade negotiations, which requires authorization by the European Council, both sides surely had plenty to discuss at this stage.

Two months ago, both the EU and the United States released their respective negotiating directives that highlight a disagreement over whether to include agriculture within the scope of any trade talks. While the European Commission intends to limit negotiations to industrial goods and conformity assessment, the United States is pushing for a more far-reaching trade deal that also covers agricultural goods.  The EU also wants to include discussions regarding automotive products within the scope of any trade negotiations on industrial goods, which it argues is required under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on preferential trade agreements (i.e., these must cover “substantially all trade” between members).  Malmström is likely to also seek clarification on whether the Trump Administration intends to impose tariffs on certain EU automotive products.  If it does, the EU has indicated the possibility that it will suspend any trade talks and retaliate.  If the two sides can find common ground on these issues, however, the European Commission has stated that it hopes to conclude trade talks with the U.S. by November 2019.
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In a joint statement issued yesterday, the United States and Japan announced that the two countries will begin discussions to enter into a bilateral trade deal.  The announcement comes after President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended a Summit Meeting in New York to discuss a host of issues, including trade.  The joint statement highlighted that the two countries will enter into negotiations for a trade agreement that will cover goods and services, as well as other unnamed areas.  Following completion of the trade deal, the two countries also “intend to have negotiations on other trade and investment items.”

The joint statement also reflects the established positions of each government with respect to certain sectors, with the auto industry likely to take center stage on the U.S. agenda:
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On May 17, the ITC voted unanimously that dumped imports of cold-drawn mechanical tubing from China, Germany, India, Italy, Korea, and Switzerland are a cause of material injury to the domestic industry.  This vote follows the Commerce Department’s final determinations that imports from producers and exporters in these six countries are being dumped in the

South Korea announced on Friday that it will appeal to the WTO Appellate Body a panel ruling in favor of Japan’s challenge to South Korea’s ban on imports of Japanese seafood products after the Fukushima nuclear incident, which occurred in 2011.  In 2013, South Korea joined several other countries and placed import restrictions on 28

Last week, South Korea requested consultations with the United States at the WTO, launching a significant dispute that challenges both individual investigations and administrative reviews conducted by the Commerce Department, as well as broader aspects of U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty law.  Korea’s broader “as such” challenge targets provisions of U.S. law, including the 2015

Yesterday evening the Commerce Department sent to the White House its findings in the Section 232 national security investigation on steel imports.  The much anticipated report was originally due to be issued last year, but faced several delays.  The President now has the authority to decide whether to accept or reject the Commerce Department’s findings