India Expresses Concerns at WTO About Possibility of Trade War Sparked by Section 232 Tariffs

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India has been champing at the bit ever since the United States imposed a 25% import tariff on steel and 10% on aluminum imports to protect its own industry.

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Last week, India told an informal meeting of heads of delegations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the U.S.’s move was an abuse of global trade provisions that could spiral into a trade war, the Economic Times reported.

India raised concerns and warned that this had a “clear risk of spiraling into a trade war” since it would prompt other countries to take retaliatory measures. The U.S. Department of Commerce in February had found that the quantities of steel and aluminum imports “threatened to impair national security.”

On March 8, the U.S. enacted the tariffs, invoking national security. (Since then, South Korea, Australia, Brazil and Argentina have won long-term exemptions, while the E.U., Canada and Mexico have temporary exemptions which are now set to expire June 1 after a 30-day extension was recently announced.) After the March announcement, several countries — China, India, the E.U., Russia and Thailand, among others — called upon the U.S. to enter into safeguard consultations.

India, specifically, said it would lodge a trade dispute against the United States at the WTO if Washington did not exempt it from the higher tariffs.

Following an outcry, U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to suspend their imposition until May 1 for Argentina, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, Canada, Mexico and the European Union — but India was not included on this list.

The U.S. had also rejected a request from India to enter into what are called safeguard consultations at the WTO.

India said it considered the U.S.’s measure to “be an emergency action/safeguard measure within the meaning of Article XIX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, 1994, (GATT 1994) and the Agreement on Safeguards.”

“As an affected member with significant export interest to the United States for the products at issue,” India said it wants “consultations with the United States pursuant to Article 12.3 and Article 8.1 of the Agreement on Safeguards and Article XIX:2 of the GATT 1994.”

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The U.S. said that under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, Trump determined that tariffs were necessary to adjust imports of steel and aluminum articles that threaten to impair the national security of the U.S.

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