Switzerland challenges US tariffs at WTO

Switzerland challenges US tariffs at WTO

GENEVA – Agence France-Presse
Switzerland challenges US tariffs at WTO

Switzerland has joined a string of countries launching challenges to Washington’s new steel and aluminum tariffs at the World Trade Organization, Bern said on July 10.

The Swiss economic affairs ministry said it had formally asked the U.S. for “consultations” over tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

Consultations constitute the first step in a full-blown legal challenge before the global trade body.

Switzerland, where the organization is based, had on July 9 “submitted a request for consultations with the US as part of WTO dispute settlement proceedings,” the ministry said in a statement.

Several other WTO members, including the European Union, China, India, Mexico, Canada and Russia, are also fighting back against President Donald Trump’s controversial trade policies.

Marking a departure from a decades-long U.S.-led drive for free trade, Trump has justified the steep tariffs with claims that massive flows of imports to the United States threaten national security.

The tariff spat has escalated into an all-out trade war between the U.S. and China.

According to July 10’s statement, Switzerland exported steel and aluminum products to the United States last year to the tune of around 80 million Swiss francs ($80.7 million, 68.7 million euros).

“From Switzerland’s point of view, the additional duties ... are unjustified,” the ministry said, pointing out that Bern had contacted Washington when the tariffs were announced in March to request an exemption.

“The U.S. has not responded to Switzerland’s request for an exemption from the tariffs to date,” the statement said, adding that the request for WTO consultations had been launched “in order to protect Switzerland’s interests.”

Bern did not mention possible retaliation, but other countries that have launched WTO challenges have warned they would slap tariffs on American products equivalent to the damage the U.S. move was estimated to cause to their industries.

Under WTO rules, if 60 days pass without consultations resolving the dispute, Switzerland can ask the body to set up dispute panel, triggering a long and likely costly legal battle.