Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr18/12)
19 April 2018
Third World Network
EU requests consultations with US on steel, aluminium tariffs
Published in SUNS #8664 dated 18 April 2018
Geneva, 17 Apr (Kanaga Raja) - The European Union has requested consultations
with the United States under Article 12.3 of the WTO's Agreement on
Safeguards over the additional tariffs imposed by the United States
on imports of certain steel and aluminium products.
In a one-page communication dated 16 April 2018, the European Union
noted that on 8 March 2018, the United States adopted "safeguard
measures" in the form of a tariff increase on imports of certain
steel and aluminium products, effective from 23 March 2018 and with
an unlimited duration.
On 22 March, the effective date of the tariff increase with respect
to the European Union was deferred to 1 May 2018, it said.
[Article 12.3 of the WTO Agreement on Safeguards states: "A Member
proposing to apply or extend a safeguard measure shall provide adequate
opportunity f or prior consultations with those Members having a substantial
interest as exporters of the product concerned, with a view to, inter
alia, reviewing the information provided under paragraph 2, exchanging
views on the measure and reaching an understanding on ways to achieve
the objective set out in paragraph 1 of Article 8."
[Article 8.1 states: "A Member proposing to apply a safeguard
measure or se eking an extension of a safeguard measure shall endeavour
to maintain a substantially equivalent level of concessions and other
obligations to that existing under GATT 1994 between it and the exporting
Members which would be affected by such a measure, in accordance with
the provisions of paragraph 3 of Article 12. To achieve this objective,
the Members concerned may agree on any adequate mea ns of trade compensation
for the adverse effects of the measure on their trade ."]
In its communication to the Committee on Safeguards (G/SG/173), the
EU pointed out that notwithstanding "the United States' characterisation
of these measures as security measures, they are in essence safeguard
The United States failed to notify the WTO Committee on Safeguards
under Article 12.1(c) on taking a decision to apply safeguard measures,
the EU said.
The EU further said that it "is a major exporting Member of the
Thus, having a substantial interest as an exporter in this case, the
European Union requests consultations with the United States under
paragraph 3 of Article 12 of the Agreement on Safeguards.
The EU said that the aim of the consultations is, inter alia, to exchange
views and seek clarification regarding the proposed measures and reaching
an understanding on ways to achieve the objectives set out in Article
8.1 of the Agreement on Safeguards.
The European Union suggests holding the consultations "as soon
The European Union said that it looks forward to a prompt reply by
the United States in order to set a mutually convenient date and venue
for these consultations.
"The European Union reserves all its rights under the Agreement
Establishing the World Trade Organization and its Annexes including
the Agreement on Safeguards," said the EU communication.
Last month, China had requested similar consultations with the United
States, under Article 12.3 of Agreement on Safeguards, following the
Presidential Proclamations on Steel and Aluminium issued by President
Donald Trump under Section 232 of Trade Expansion Act of 1962 imposing
additional tariffs on these products.
In response to China's request, the United States however had informed
China on 4 April that there was no basis for consultations under the
Safeguards Agreement, and that the Proclamations were aimed at adjusting
imports of steel and aluminium products that threaten to impair the
national security of the United States.
In a two-page communication (G/SG/168) to the Committee on Safeguards,
the United States had said that the premise for China's requests for
consultations under Article 12.3 of the Agreement on Safeguards is
that the Steel and Aluminum Proclamations (issued by President Trump)
are safeguard measures f or purposes of that Agreement.
The United States said the President issued the Steel and Aluminum
Proclamations pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of
1962, "under which the President determined that tariffs are
necessary to adjust imports of steel and aluminum articles that threaten
to impair the national security of the United States."
The United States maintained that these actions are not safeguard
measures, and therefore, "there is no basis to conduct consultations
under the Agreement on Safeguards with respect to these measures."
The United States had said it did not take action pursuant to Section
201 of the Trade Act of 1974, which is the law under which the United
States imposes safeguard measures.
It did not submit notifications with respect to these measures because
they are not safeguard measures, the US had said.
According to the US, Article 12.3 of the Agreement on Safeguards states
that a "Member proposing to apply or extend a safeguard measure
shall provide adequate opportunity for prior consultations" with
Members having a substantial interest in exports of the product concerned.
However, the United States said it is not proposing "to apply
or extend a safeguard measure" with respect to steel or aluminum,
and therefore Article 12.3 does not apply.
"Accordingly, China's requests for consultations pursuant to
Article 12.3 have no basis in the Agreement on Safeguards," the
US had maintained. (See SUNS #86 56 dated 6 April 2018 and SUNS #8660
dated 12 April 2018).
Meanwhile, China has initiated a dispute at the World Trade Organisation
(W TO) over the additional duties imposed by the United States on
imports of certain steel and aluminium products from China.
In a communication circulated to WTO Members on 9 April, China has
sought consultations with the United States over these measures.
The request for consultations is the first step in the dispute settlement
process at the WTO (see SUNS #8660 dated 12 April 2018).