South Korea Hits Back at US Tariffs in WTO Challenge

(CN) – South Korea filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization challenging President Donald Trump’s decision to levy steep new tariffs on imported solar cells and washing machines.

On Tuesday, the administration imposed a tariff of 30 percent on most imported solar modules, and a a 50 percent tariff on washing machines. both tariffs gradually decline over time.

The filing by the government in Seoul means that unless the Trump administration capitulates within 60 days, it could be in store for a protracted, bitter fight.

If the WTO ultimately sides with South Korea, it could authorize retaliatory tariffs and other measures on U.S. goods.

On Wednesday U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Reuters that he was unconcerned about South Korea going to the WTO.

“The fact that they may get a favorable decision (at the WTO) doesn’t mean that it’s a correct decision,“ he said. ”But in any event there’s been no decision yet so it’s a little bit too early to assume that the safeguards will be knocked out.”

The complaint comes at a time when the United States’ relationship with the WTO is at a low:  Candidate Trump frequently assailed  on the campaign trail in 2016, telling audiences “We have not been treated fairly” by the 23-year-old intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade

The Trump administration has since blocked the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s appellate body as part of an effort to secure as yet unspecified reforms to the body’s dispute-resolution system.

The South Korean complaint is the second to be filed against the U.S. this month. Canada filed a lengthy complaint against the United States just after New Years over the Trump administration’s anti-dumping policies.

In its complaint, the Canadian govenrment claimed the United States’ imposing “punitive countervailing and anti-dumping duties against Canada’s softwood lumber producers is unfair and unwarranted.”

The filing came amid talks between the two nations and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Those talks are scheduled to resume next week.

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