Russia joins bid to win compensation over US tariffs

Associated Press

Geneva – Russia on Thursday joined the European Union, India and China in appealing through the World Trade Organization to demand compensation from the United States for its tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum.

The WTO published a filing from Russia that, like other countries, argues that the U.S. tariffs that took effect March 23 amount to a “safeguard” measure aimed to protect U.S. domestic producers from surging imports.

The Trump administration has rejected those arguments and says the measures are for national security reasons.

Russia has asked for “consultations” with the United States over a provision under WTO rules that require countries who invoke the “safeguard” clause to allow for similar compensation in other areas, to balance out the impact on trade overall.

But the United States denies the allegations by others that the tariffs amount to a safeguard measure.

Russia did not go so far as to appeal to the WTO’s dispute settlement process over the tariffs, meaning its demand for compensation could amount to a merely symbolic gesture.

In a move that could presage what the U.S. response to Russia will be, the WTO says the United States told India and the EU Wednesday that it was open to consultations on their similar complaints – but not if they are about safeguards.

Under WTO rules, the trade body will only intervene in Russia’s effort if Russia initiates a “dispute” to engage the WTO settlement system. But Russia has never triggered a dispute against the U.S. since Russia joined the WTO in 2012.

So far, China is the only country that has done so over the blanket tariffs on imports of the metals, though India has asked to sit in on its talks with the United States on the issue.

Longtime U.S. allies including Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Australia and the EU have won temporary exemptions from application of the tariffs, pending talks with the United States.