US trade representative Robert Lighthizer is presenting Trump’s trade tariffs case as one that is uniquely justified, while the retaliatory measures of America’s trade partners are altogether illicit. America’s interpretation of WTO rules is that as long as America levies tariffs as a security measure, that they’re perfectly legitimate, whereas retaliatory countermeasures are considered unnecessary measures aimed at doing harm to another nation’s economy.
America has the right to impose trade tariffs to protect its national interests. But when countries retaliate, they break the rules, says US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“President [Donald] Trump has taken actions on trade in steel and aluminum to protect our national security interests. These actions are wholly legitimate and fully justified, both as a matter of US law and WTO rules,” Lighthizer said in a statement on Tuesday. “By contrast, the European Union has concocted a groundless legal theory to justify immediate tariffs on US exports. Other WTO Members, including China, have adopted a similar approach.
“These retaliatory tariffs underscore the complete hypocrisy that governs so much of the global trading system. For months, the EU, China, and others have criticized the trade policy of the United States, while claiming to champion the WTO. But their recent tariffs prove that they simply ignore WTO rules whenever doing so is convenient,” he added.
Lighthizer is referring to Article XXI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of the WTO that allows members of the trade organization to protect security interests. The US has imposed 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminium, claiming security interests. China, Russia, Japan, India, Turkey and the European Union have all said the tariffs cannot be explained by US security concerns and are, in fact, protectionism measures.
“President Trump’s actions regarding steel and aluminum plainly fall within the legitimate scope of Article XXI. Faced with massive excess capacity that puts the very future of our steel and aluminum industries at risk, President Trump took certain measures that he deemed essential to the national security of the United States,” Lighthizer said.
The European Union will levy goods coming from America with tariffs worth €2.8 billion ($3.3 billion) after Washington imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from Europe. Russia, Turkey, India and other countries will also introduce sanctions against US goods.
However, somewhere the Trump administration has to be lying for this to be true and that’s because, on the one hand, Trump campaigned on protecting America’s economy by pulling out of international trade agreements and protecting certain industries through the use of trade tariffs, perspectives that were promoted by Trump even on his Twitter page. Therefore, either the official pretext attached to the tariffs is true, or else the rhetoric positioned by Trump, on just about every other outlet, is lying, or vice versa.
But then, the concept of utilizing punitive tariffs doesn’t fall under protecting national security interests, and those are being utilized against China, and tariffs against European autos are being proposed by Trump as a retaliatory move, hence, if the rest of the world is violating WTO rules by retaliating, then the US is not free of that charge, and therefore not an innocent party. If hypocrisy is involved here, it is patently that of the Trump administration, for behaving as though they can engage in activities that the rest of the world is barred from, as though it truly is ‘exceptional’, as if America First isn’t something that is inherently unfair to the rest of the world.