WTO moves forward on China auto, and U.S. aircraft trade cases

The World Trade Organization (WTO) on Tuesday established dispute panels in two cases involving the United States, one in which the U.S. is the plaintiff against China and another in which it is defending an action brought by Europe.

On China, the WTO has established a panel to look at antidumping and antisubsidy duties that China has slapped on U.S. auto exports. China has emerged as a major market for American automobiles, and the Obama administration alleges that China is engaging in protectionism without legal justification.

The Chinese tariffs, which range as high as 8.9 percent, were announced shortly after President Obama slapped safeguard tariffs on Chinese tires. 

In Monday’s third presidential debate, Obama noted that the U.S. has brought more WTO cases against China than during the two terms of the Bush administration, and he highlighted the tire tariffs. The moves are popular in the swing state of Ohio. 

“We will not stand idly by while China misuses trade remedy procedures and puts American jobs at risk,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “As we have demonstrated in numerous cases, we are serious about holding China accountable to its WTO commitments and ensuring that there is a level playing field for American workers and businesses.”

The U.S. initiated the WTO action in July and following mandatory talks in August, the WTO referred the matter to a dispute panel. The panel process can take as long as three to five years to work out.

In the European case, the WTO sent a European request to send $12 billion in annual trade sanctions against the United States to arbitration. The European Union claims that the U.S. has not abided by a ruling that found aircraft maker Boeing illegally benefited from subsidies in the form of military and space contracts and state aid. A separate compliance panel was set up to determine whether the U.S. has withdrawn the subsidies, as it has claimed.