Three Wrongs Do Not Make a Right: The Conundrum of the U.S. Steel and Aluminum Tariffs
World Trade Review, Vol. 18, no. 3 (2019)
26 Pages Posted: 1 May 2019 Last revised: 19 Jan 2021
Date Written: March 24, 2019
In March 2018, the United States enacted tariff increases on a vast range of imported steel and aluminum products. The Trump administration cited national security concerns as the justification, claiming an exception under GATT Article XXI. In response to these tariffs, several WTO Members, including the European Union, Canada, Mexico, China, Russia, and Turkey, adopted their own tariffs against imports from the United States, justifying their tariffs under the WTO Agreement on Safeguards. Other Members, such as South Korea, Brazil, and Argentina opted for quota agreements on these exports with the United States in exchange for exemption from the tariffs. This article argues that none of these measures is consistent with WTO rules. The sweeping tariffs that the United States have adopted, the retaliatory measures that several Members have implemented, and the bilateral quota agreements that three Members concluded with the United States are indeed “three wrongs” that do not make a right, but rather endanger the stability of the international trading system under WTO legal disciplines.
Keywords: GATT Article XIX, Retaliatory Trade Measures, Safeguard Measures, National Security, Agreement on Safeguards
JEL Classification: F02, F13, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation