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SHOCKER: US sides with Russia over Ukraine in WTO case

What actions can countries take in the name of national security, even if it violates their WTO commitments?




Typically, Washington is against anything that benefits Moscow, and is for anything which bolsters the position of US puppet regime Ukraine. But, at ongoing cases before the World Trade Organization, that narrative isn’t applicable.

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This is so because if Washington slams Moscow for its actions relative to Kiev, it would provide a case against Trump’s metals tariffs. However, by standing with Russia on this issue, Washington thinks that it can save its own trade actions, namely Trump’s metals tariffs.

Politico reports

The Trump administration is siding with Russia in a potential landmark case over an issue that threatens to tear the World Trade Organization apart: What actions can countries take in the name of national security, even if it violates their WTO commitments?

The panel’s decision, expected later this year, could be consequential for a number of cases brought against the U.S. over President Donald Trump’s use of steel and aluminum tariffs.

However, the case involving Russia stems from a different type of action — namely, transit restrictions that Moscow imposed on Ukraine in January 2016 that cut off key markets in Central Asia and the Caucuses, which Ukrainian exporters can only reach by Russian roads. The move came amid continuing conflict between the two nations over Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and a war in eastern Ukraine that’s now in its fifth year.

Although the U.S. backs Ukraine in the larger territorial conflict, both the U.S. and Russia argue the WTO has no right to weigh in on the case Ukraine brought against the transit restrictions.

That’s because Moscow says it imposed its restrictions as a national security measure under Article 21 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which allows members to take actions that violate their WTO commitments for purposes of national security.

The U.S. government argues that “the dispute involving essential security is political in nature and, therefore, beyond the proper authority and competency of the WTO to assess.”

It’s the same argument the Trump administration is using to justify its steel and aluminum tariffs. Both Washington and Moscow insist Article 21 claims are “non-justiciable” — meaning WTO panels can’t rule on any dispute invoking the national security exemption.

In the other words, they argue “as soon as anybody says the word ‘Article 21’ out loud, the panel has to stop and go home,” Jennifer Hillman, a former WTO Appellate Body judge, said in a recent speech.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative declined to comment, but directed to POLITICO to documents on its website explaining its position in the Russia-Ukraine dispute.

“A dispute involving essential security is political in nature and, therefore, beyond the proper authority and competency of the WTO to assess,” the U.S. government said during an oral presentation on the case earlier this year. “The panel should fulfill its function by noting the invocation of Article 21(b)(iii) in its report to the [WTO Dispute Settlement Body] and make no other findings.”

Some other WTO members, such as Canada, believe countries should at least be required to say why they’re invoking Article 21. However, Russia and the U.S. counter that the provision is “self-judging” — that is, once a country decides an action is in its national security interests, it doesn’t have to explain the decision to other members.

Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs come closest to a safeguard action, but that would require the U.S. to compensate other WTO members for lost trade, something Trump didn’t want to do.

“The text of Article 21 contains no requirement for a member to detail reasons or events to invoke the security exception. The text instead provides only that a member ‘considers’ the action necessary for the protection of its essential security interests in time of war or other emergency in international relations,” the U.S. said in another legal brief in the case.

However, Hillman contends the provision isn’t as broad as the Trump administration argues, since the text indicates it can only be used in situations involving nuclear weapon materials; trade in implements of war or goods to supply a military establishment; or in the time of war or some “other emergency in international relations.”

In Russia’s case, the country has been reluctant to admit any military role in Ukraine, so identifying the reason for its national security exception could be awkward for Moscow, she said.

Trump imposed duties on steel and aluminum in March following a pair of investigations that found imports of the two metals threatened to impair national security by weakening the U.S. economy. A rarely used U.S. law known as Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act allows the president to restrict imports in the case of a national security threat, but most commanders in chief have been loathe to use the authority.

Countries responded to Trump’s trade restrictions both by retaliating against U.S. exports and by challenging the move at the WTO, accusing the U.S. of imposing an illegal trade barrier.

“Nobody’s declaring war on Canada, or saying they’re an unfriendly neighbor. They’re obviously not” — U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer

Under WTO rules, countries that want to impose additional duties on imports can do so through a temporary “safeguard” action; through countervailing and anti-dumping duty proceedings; or through negotiations with other WTO members. Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs come closest to a safeguard action, but that would require the U.S. to compensate other WTO members for lost trade, something Trump didn’t want to do.

While the EU, China, Canada, Mexico and others believe the tariffs are illegal, the U.S. makes the same charge against countries that have retaliated.

“Instead of working with us to address a common problem [of global steel and aluminum excess capacity], some of our trading partners have elected to respond with retaliatory tariffs designed to punish American workers, farmers and companies,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in statement announcing WTO cases against five trading partners. “These tariffs appear to breach each WTO member’s commitments under the WTO agreement.”

Lighthizer repeated that sentiment Thursday during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, where he was challenged to explain how steel and aluminum exports from a longtime ally like Canada pose a threat to national security.

“Nobody’s declaring war on Canada, or saying they’re an unfriendly neighbor. They’re obviously not,” Lighthizer replied. “They’re a great ally and certainly one of America’s closest friends and closest trading partners. But if you decide that you need to protect an industry, you can’t be in a position where the protection is of no value because everything comes in … from Canada.”
That doesn’t mean the countries themselves are a national security threat, just their exports, he explained, adding that once the U.S. has decided to restrict imports, it has to ensure there’s “no hole in the net” that defeats the purpose of the original action. Still, many close allies are offended by the Trump administration’s use of the national security argument to keep out their products.

“This goes against all logic and against all history. We simply cannot accept this,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday, just hours after he and Trump agreed to launch negotiations to reduce trade barriers across the Atlantic. Those talks could lead to removal of the steel and aluminum tariffs and Europe’s retaliatory duties on $3.3 billion of American exports.

But still looming is another probe into whether auto and auto part imports, including from Europe, pose a risk to U.S. national security.

Although Trump agreed to hold off on imposing new tariffs on the EU as long as negotiations are making progress, he’s directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to continue the Section 232 auto investigation to keep the option of additional restrictions on the table.

In the meantime, the cases that China, the EU and others have brought against the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs are proceeding at the WTO, as well as the more recent cases brought by the U.S. against the retaliatory tariffs.

A narrow ruling that restricts the right of WTO members to use the exception could reinforce Trump’s perception.

If WTO judges get over the first hurdle and decide they can rule in cases invoking Article 21, there’s a fear they could either decide the case too narrowly or too broadly, a senior European official said last week.

A narrow ruling that restricts the right of WTO members to use the exception could reinforce Trump’s perception that the rules-based global trading is unfairly tilted against the U.S. and encourage him to disregard its decisions.

A broad ruling, meanwhile, could open the door for countries to use the national security exception every time they want to unilaterally raise duties or take some other action in contravention of their WTO obligations.

The second possibility presents a particularly interesting situation, where countries could potentially invoke the “self-judging” Article 21 exception to justify their retaliatory duties on the U.S.

Trade restrictions are bad, and Moscow is bad no matter what. But when it suits American interests, however, the situation can be radically different, as in this case.

Here, at these WTO proceedings, trade restrictions on the basis of national security are awesome and Russia is perfectly okay using them, because it happens to work out in Washington’s benefit to say so.

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Trauma2000AM HantsVeeNarian (Yerevan)freddJohn Mason Recent comment authors
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So… the U.$. ‘siding’ with Russia out of ‘self interest’ and ‘money.’ Not surprising. Everything the U.$. does is done out of Self Interest and Money.

AM Hants
AM Hants

Interesting to see how this pans out. Ukraine has shown she is at war with Russia, so Russia can prove national security is at risk, based on Ukraine’s actions.

VeeNarian (Yerevan)
VeeNarian (Yerevan)

US/EU/NATO stuffed organisations are fundamentally flawed. I really don’t know why Russia has bothered with them. I suppose there is no choice until BRICS/SCO alternatives are up and running.
So, let me get this straight: Ukraine claims that Russia has invaded the Donbass, annexed Crimea and this position has been backed by the US/EU/NATO gang? And yet Russia cannot take act on its security?
Remember how the US/EU/NATO gang could sanction Russia in an attempt to destroy its economy in 2014, but Russia had no right to respond with its food sanctions?
This is the mentality of the Western supremacists.


In Russia’s case, the country has been reluctant to admit any military
role in Ukraine, so identifying the reason for its national security
exception could be awkward for Moscow, she said.

no it is not Ukraine is the hostile nation accusing russia of an invasion and not producing any proof so it is in russia’s interest to stop traffic from this hostile nation on its territory

John Mason
John Mason

Having read the article one can come to a logical conclusion to save the WTO is to throw the US out.


Who’s elected to the WTO? No one. Why the hell wouldn’t the US or Russia prefer to limit the WTO’s power? I think it’s a good idea.


ukraine was tricked into this war be george soros and the corrupt EU….. once again poor ukraine left at the altar to fight russia on its own…… poor ukraine gets screwed again…………

Bill Spence
Bill Spence

The US does not have to accept consistency and can violate WTO rules at will. So one should question why they would ever side with Russia.


European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.





Via RT…

The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.



Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:

On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran



Authored by Adrian Cohen via

Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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