Wed, Jan 30, 2019 - Page 10 News List

China brings dispute to WTO, bashes judge block

RESOLVABLE?There are only three judges left on the WTO appellate body, with two to step down in December. Three are required to vote on appeals such as China’s

Reuters, GENEVA

China on Monday triggered a legal process for the WTO to hear Beijing’s challenge to US tariffs imposed on US$234 billion of goods, and berated the US for blocking the appointment of judges who could rule on it.

A Chinese trade diplomat told a WTO meeting that China wants an expert panel to adjudicate its complaint, launched in April last year.

The complaint seeks to block US tariffs imposed on Chinese imports in a trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies launched under US President Donald Trump.

“This is a blatant breach of the United States’ obligations under the WTO agreements and is posing a systemic challenge to the multilateral trading system,” China’s representative said, according to a transcript. “If the United States were free to continue infringing these principles without consequences, the future viability of this organization is in dire peril.”

The US from July 6 last year started imposing 25 percent additional tariffs on about US$34 billion of Chinese imports, and from Sept. 24 imposed 10 percent additional tariffs on about US$200 billion.

China has responded with tariffs on US goods.

The US official at the meeting said that China was using the WTO system as a shield for trade-distorting policies, and was damaging the world trading system through “grossly unfair and trade-distorting forced technology transfer policies and practices, and through this unfounded dispute.”

“It is China, and certainly not the United States, that is threatening the overall viability of the WTO system,” the US official said.

China’s case, like others launched recently, might soon become impossible to resolve because of US action that has halted the appointment of judges to hear appeals in trade disputes.

Washington says that judges have routinely broken WTO procedure and exceeded their mandate.

It reiterated its position at Monday’s meeting, while China and 70 other WTO members reiterated their call for the US to stop blocking the appointment of judges.

There are only three judges left on the WTO appellate body, the top court of world trade, and two are to step down in December. WTO rules require three judges to hear appeals.

China said that the US action to halt the appointment of judges was illegitimate, citing WTO rules that say: “Vacancies shall be filled as they arise.”

“If nothing is done, [we] will witness the shutdown of an organ that is at the heart of the WTO dispute settlement system. Time is of the essence,” Brazil’s representative told the meeting.

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