The US has no other choice but to lift steel and aluminum tariffs: Global Times editorial
Published: Aug 17, 2023 11:31 PM Updated: Aug 17, 2023 11:26 PM
Operations are underway on the high-end aluminum foil production line at Inner Mongolia Liansheng new energy materials Co., Ltd., Tongliao, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on February 19, 2023. Photo: VCG

Operations are underway on the high-end aluminum foil production line at Inner Mongolia Liansheng new energy materials Co., Ltd., Tongliao, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on February 19, 2023. Photo: VCG

The dispute settlement panel of the World Trade Organization (WTO) released a report on Wednesday, stating that "the additional duties resulted in tariffs applied to US-originating products that exceed the rates of duty set out in China's Schedule." In other words, the panel supported the US' appeal, which is an uncommon situation. Washington immediately displayed a triumphant attitude. The US Trade Representative's Office issued a statement promptly, welcoming WTO's conclusion and accusing China of being "hypocritical" by "both suing the United States in the WTO and at the same time unilaterally retaliating with tariffs." The US again presented an example of the thief crying "catch the thief."

When it comes to "hypocrisy" and double standards, there's no country in the world that can stand on par with the US. Everything has its cause and effect, and the origin of this matter is quite clear. Starting in March 2018, the US, under the pretext of "national security," imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum products exported to the US by many WTO members, including China. China and several other members brought the issue to the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism. In December 2022, a panel ruled that the US measures violated WTO rules.

However, in the face of a ruling that it didn't want to accept, the US showed a completely different face. It used various means to obstruct the enforcement of the ruling, evaded its obligations, and refused to lift the non-compliant tariff measures. This demonstrates that the US doesn't really take WTO rules and rulings seriously. Now, it is using these very rules to accuse others, which is a clear display of hypocrisy and double standards, and even an extreme manifestation of arrogance and overbearing behavior.

Faced with blatant bullying, remaining silent or passively accepting it would only encourage the US to further trample upon international trade rules. Therefore, China has chosen to appeal to the WTO and respond with countermeasures against the unfair trade practices of the US. This is a legitimate action to safeguard its own lawful rights and interests. It's worth noting that China is not the only country taking such actions. At the time, numerous economies including the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and others pursued similar courses of action.

Some foreign media outlets claimed that the WTO panel report is "favorable to the US and unfavorable to China," which is actually misleading. This report is just one part of the complex "case within a case" and does not fully represent the whole situation. The Chinese side has stated that it is studying the report and will follow up on it in accordance with WTO rules. In fact, the opinion of the panel of experts is only the first step and is not binding. The decision of the appellate body is the final and binding ruling. Although the appellate body is currently suspended, the legal process still exists. China has the right to decide whether to appeal the opinion of the panel of experts based on the WTO dispute settlement mechanism. Ultimately, as emphasized in the statement released by the Chinese side, the crux of this case lies in the US' "unilateral and protectionist moves."

This "case within a case" is not as complicated as it seems. If the US cancels the illegally imposed tariffs, wouldn't the root cause be eliminated? This is what the US should have done, but now its attitude is to "refuse to implement" the correction of the root cause and arrogantly demand that the WTO "reform" according to its own needs, while expecting the countries it bullies to "not fight back." The US side tramples on international trade rules for its own selfish interests, but turns around and accuses those countries who dare to say "no" to bullying of being "hypocritical." This requires a great deal of psychological quality.

The Ministry of Commerce of China recently released the "2023 Report on WTO Compliance of the United States" for the first time, providing a comprehensive and accurate summary. The report points out that the US has undermined the global multilateral trading system for a considerable period of time, using its economic advantages and the dominance of the US dollar to engage in trade bullying. The US has also employed double standards in implementing industrial policies, causing disruptions in the global industrial chain. It can be said that regardless of any international rules, the US only is "pleased" when it benefits from those rules, and it gets "irritated" when it doesn't. This has become a common impression of the US among people.

However, China will never trade its national interests for Washington's "satisfaction." China is not only safeguarding its own legitimate rights and interests but also the rules-based global trade system. The tariff war initiated by Washington was fundamentally wrong from the beginning. No matter what political stance it takes, it cannot change the detrimental nature of this matter. The more resolute the international community is in resisting bullying, the more beneficial it will be for maintaining the global trade order based on multilateral rules.