The World Trade Organization ruled Tuesday that some U.S. tariffs against China broke international trading rules, a conclusion that exacerbates U.S.-WTO tensions but likely will have no consequence for American tariff policy because the organization’s appellate system currently doesn’t function.
The WTO sided with a complaint filed by China in 2018, which said the Trump administration broke WTO rules because of the way it singled out China for separate tariffs than other countries. The Trump administration has criticized these WTO rules for being inadequate.
Under the WTO, countries have limited reasons for which they can impose tariffs that affect only one country. China successfully argued that the U.S. application of tariffs fell outside the scope of reasons.
“China has demonstrated that the additional duties apply only to products from China and thus fail to accord to products originating in China an advantage granted to the like product originating in all other WTO Members,” the panel said.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement that it thought the ruling was “fair and objective” and hoped the U.S. would comply.