Switzerland moves WTO against US tariffs on steel, aluminium

Switzerland has moved the World Trade Organization (WTO) disputing the “unjustified” US tariffs on steel and aluminium, the Swiss Economy Ministry said on Tuesday.

“From Switzerland’s point of view, the additional duties, which according to the US have been introduced to protect national security, are unjustified,” according to the official statement cited by a news agency.

Noting that the US didn’t respond to a Swiss request for an exemption from the tariffs to date, Swiss Federal Councillor for Economic Affairs Johann N Schneider-Ammann decided to “initiate WTO dispute settlement proceedings”, the statement said.

The US slapped additional duties on imports of certain steel and aluminium products in March and the move was described by the Swiss government as “having effects on Switzerland”.

Switzerland first approached the US in March and submitted a formal request to Washington for a country-specific exemption from these import duties.

According to the Swiss government, in 2017, Swiss exports of steel and aluminium products amounted to around $80 million.

Other WTO members affected by the tariffs, such as Canada, Mexico, the EU and Norway, also sought consultations with Washington.

The US had exempted the EU, Canada and Mexico from the tariffs until June. Following the expiration of the exemptions, the Trump administration additionally announced a 20 per cent import tariff on all EU-assembled vehicles.

The EU launched legal proceedings in June against the US tariffs at the WTO. Under the WTO rules, if 60 days pass without consultations resolving the dispute, Switzerland can ask the body to set up a dispute panel, which means the beginning of a long legal battle.

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