News / Economy

WTO: US Duties on Chinese Goods Unfair

FILE - The entrance of the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarter in Geneva, Switzerland.
FILE - The entrance of the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarter in Geneva, Switzerland.
VOA News

The World Trade Organization has ruled the United States was wrong to impose punitive duties on a wide range of Chinese goods, in a decision that could have long-term impacts.

A WTO panel ruled Monday that the U.S. import duties on the Chinese goods - which include solar panels, steel and other products - were inconsistent with international rules.

Washington had argued the tariffs were justified in order to counteract government subsidies to Chinese companies that were then able to allegedly "dump" the goods in the United States at below market value.

Beijing, which filed the complaint in 2012, argued the tariffs represent illegal U.S. protection of American producers. The complaint covered more than $7.2 billion in Chinese goods, annually.

It is not clear whether the United States will appeal the ruling. U.S. Trade Representative Mark Froman said the government is "carefully evaluating its options," but will continue its "strong and effective" remedies against unfair subsidies.

China's commerce ministry welcomed the ruling and urged the U.S. to "correct its wrongdoings" in order to "ensure an environment of fair competition." But the ministry also said it regretted that the WTO panel rejected some of Beijing's arguments.

China analyst Steven Lewis with Houston's Rice University tells VOA the decision could help convince Chinese leaders of the importance of joining international bodies, such as the WTO, which China joined in 2001.

"My conversations with Chinese policymakers now as compared to 12 or 15 years ago suggests that they're much more willing to play the game. You know, 'you win some, you lose some.' I'm sure the government will play this up in Chinese domestic media to show that they're capable of getting rulings in our favor," said Lewis.

Lewis said the decision also could have a long-term influence how the United States applies punitive duties on Chinese goods.

The WTO ruling found that Washington did not accurately calculate the value of Beijing's subsidies. It also said the U.S. did not meet certain other standards for determining the ownership of the Chinese companies.

Lewis says China has, "generally speaking, been playing more by the rules" of international trade, despite the numerous recent disagreements it has had with the U.S. on trade issues. 

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