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9 Dec, 2023 05:30

EU mulls relaunching WTO case against US – Bloomberg 

The complaint is related to steel and aluminum tariffs imposed during the Trump administration
EU mulls relaunching WTO case against US – Bloomberg 

The EU is considering reopening a case at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the US over steel and aluminum tariffs, Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.  

The trade row started in 2018 when then-US President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on European steel and aluminum, citing national security concerns. The measure prompted the EU to retaliate with its own levies, causing uncertainty even in unrelated industries, Bloomberg said. The dispute saw the allies hit each other with tariffs on goods worth more than $10 billion.  

The European Commission struck a temporary two-year truce with the administration of President Joe Biden in 2021, during which a deal was due to be reached on the so-called Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminum (GSA), which would put an end to the tariffs. The temporary agreement paused some tariffs to help businesses recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Under the treaty, Washington partly removed its levies and introduced a set of tariff-rate quotas above which duties on the metals are applied, while the EU lifted all of its restrictions. The US-imposed system comprises dozens of quarterly quotas on various categories.  

“That has created an unbalanced situation, according to the EU, that has seen the bloc’s exporters pay over $350 million a year in duties,” Bloomberg reported, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.  

The EU is requesting that the quarterly tariff-rate system be replaced with annual quotas in order to “better reflect historical flows.” The US, however, wants to keep restrictions in place through next year’s presidential election until the end of 2025, the outlet noted. As the Biden administration has rejected the bloc’s request, failure to reach an agreement could see some of those duties returned next year.  

Nonetheless, the EU will reportedly refrain from immediately reimposing retaliatory measures on US goods.   

“The EU might have been able to hold out for more from the US on improving the quota administration, but it would have required dragging this out until the end of the year and it was fairly common knowledge that member states didn’t want these tariffs to kick back in,” said Sam Lowe, a partner at international advisory firm Flint Global.  

Meanwhile, the Committee for European Construction Equipment (CECE) has joined a wide range of industry bodies in sending an open letter to US and EU leaders, urging them to permanently end the dispute related to steel, aluminum, and large aircraft manufacturing.  

According to European construction magazine KHL, the signatories highlighted the damaging effect of the re-imposition of tariffs, which could total more than €1.3 billion ($1.4 billion) if no new agreement is reached before the January 1 deadline.

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