WTO decides in favor of Korea in dispute over US tariffs

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in Korea’s favor in a dispute over high United States tariffs on imported steel.

The Department of Commerce, Industry and Energy said Friday that the global trade body has ruled in Korea’s favor on eight anti-dumping and countervailing measures imposed by the United States on imports of steel products and high-power power transformers based on unfavorable facts.

US law allows its authorities to invoke facts that are contrary to the interests of a party, in this case Korean exporters, if that party does not provide the data requested by the authorities.

The US Department of Commerce has been imposing high tariffs on Korean goods since 2016 using the available evidence.

Tariffs on various Korean steel products, including corrosion-resistant steel products, cold rolled flat products and hot rolled steel flat products, ranged from 9.49% to 59.72%. An anti-dumping tariff of 60.81% has been introduced on Korean transformers.

The Korean government and steel producers have repeatedly pointed out, through various diplomatic channels, the unfairness of the United States’ imposition of tariffs on the basis of unfavorable facts. However, as negotiations were unsuccessful and local companies continue to struggle with high tariffs, Korea began a dispute in February 2018.

The WTO decision is Korea’s first victory in three years, although there is a possibility that the United States could appeal the decision of the WTO Commission.

Out of a total of 40 disputes involving eight tariff cases, the WTO ruled in favor of Korea on 37 issues and the United States on three issues, according to the Commerce Department.

While the most contentious issue was whether it was a legitimate means for the US authorities to rely only on available facts, the WTO agreed with Korea that the US decision in most cases did not comply with the rules of an international body.

However, the WTO disagreed with Korea that the US negative factual clause would automatically lead to a violation of the WTO agreement, the Commerce Department said.

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