US takes Russia's side in World Trade Organization case against Ukraine: report

US takes Russia's side in World Trade Organization case against Ukraine: report
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The Trump administration is taking Russia’s side in a World Trade Organization (WTO) case against Ukraine, Politico reported on Monday

The case stems from transit restrictions that the Russian government imposed on Ukraine that cut off key markets in Central Asia in January 2016, according to the news outlet, which noted that Ukrainian exporters can only reach those markets via Russian roads.

Moscow’s move came amid tensions between both countries after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in an occupation of the peninsula and conducted a referendum — under the massive presence of Russian soldiers  — to annex Crimea to Russia within weeks. 

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Though the United States reportedly backs the Ukrainian government in the larger conflict, the Trump administration and the Russian government both agree the WTO has no right to interfere in the case Ukraine brought against Moscow’s transit restrictions, according to Politico.

The news outlet reported that Moscow is justifying the restriction under the terms of Article 21 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which allows countries to violate their commitments to the WTO over national security purposes.

The Trump administration argues that “the dispute involving essential security is political in nature and, therefore, beyond the proper authority and competency of the WTO to assess,” according to Politico.

The Trump administration is also using the same argument to justify imposing steep tariffs on steel and aluminum for purposes of national security.

“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 of the strategy in a recent speech, Politico noted.