India launches WTO challenge over US steel, aluminium tariffs

Geneva (AFP) –


India has opened a World Trade Organization challenge against the steel and aluminium tariffs imposed by the United States, a document circulated to WTO members on Wednesday said.

Accusing Washington of "multiple violations" of WTO rules, India formally asked the US for "consultations" over the tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium, which is the first step in a full-blown legal challenge.

The move means India has joined other powerful WTO members -- including the European Union and China -- in fighting back against President Donald Trump's controversial trade policies.

India also noted that it is already suffering from the tariffs as unlike the EU, Canada, Mexico and others, it has not been granted a provisional exemption.

Russia, another country not granted a waiver, announced on Tuesday that it would retaliate against American products to the tune of nearly $540 million, an amount it said was equivalent to the damage likely to be caused to its domestic industry by the US moves.

Japan, also not offered an exemption, has readied a response that would see tariffs imposed on US goods worth 50 billion yen ($451 million).

But India has not yet detailed a specific retaliation.

Instead, it laid out its legal case against the US and voiced hope that the notice would lead to "mutually convenient date and venue for consultations."

Under WTO rules, if 60 days pass without consultations resolving the dispute, India can ask the WTO to set up dispute panel, triggering a long and likely costly legal battle that will almost certainly take years to resolve.

But Trump's moves have also complicated the WTO's dispute process itself.

His trade envoys have refused to sign off on any new judges to the crucial appellate branch of the Dispute Settlement Body.

If the blockage cannot resolved, the appellate court may be fully paralysed by the end of next year.

Trump sparked fears of a trade war in March when he decided to impose the tariffs on steel aluminium imports, primarily to target China, but also allies, including EU countries as well as Japan.

Marking a departure from a decades-long US-led drive for open and free trade, Trump has claimed that massive flows of imports to the United States threatened national security.