WTO delays US metal tariff dispute ruling to the fourth quarter

The World Trade Organization has delayed to fourth-quarter 2022 the expected timeline for its rulings in cases involving complaints six countries filed disputing the US’ steel and aluminum tariffs.

A special WTO panel is handling the complaints and the rulings were originally scheduled to be issued in the first half of 2022, according to a WTO notice released July 4.

China, India, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey filed complaints against the US.

“On [Dec. 9, 2021], the panel informed the [Dispute Settlement Body] that it expected to issue its final report to the parties no earlier than the first half of 2022,” the WTO said. “Due to the complexity of the dispute, the panel now expects to issue its final report to the parties no earlier than the last quarter of 2022.”

The WTO’s rules for dispute settlement dictate that “the period in which a panel shall conduct its examination, from the date that the composition and terms of reference of the panel have been agreed upon until the date the final report is issued to the parties to the dispute, shall, as a general rule, not exceed six months,” according to the notice.

However, the time frame can be extended if a panel “considers that it cannot issue its report within six months” and can provide adequate reasoning for the delay with a revised estimated time frame for its ruling, the notice adds.

The panels handling the individual complaints filed by the six countries were all established by the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body on various dates in late 2018. All panels were then composed Jan. 25, 2019.

Former US President Donald Trump enacted a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports from most countries in 2018 under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act. Since then, some countries have been exempted from the tariffs or granted an annual quota allowance for a certain volume of duty-free imports.

Countries that have been exempted from the US metal tariffs or have had the tariffs replaced with a tariff-rate quota for either steel or aluminum or both metals, include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, the EU, the UK, and Japan.

— Nick Lazzaro