Welcome to Weise Wednesday! Twice a month we will share a brief Q&A with the former U.S. Commissioner of Customs, Mr. George Weise. If you have questions, we encourage you to send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Q. Can you bring us up-to-date on any recent developments on the global trade front between the United States and its trading partners?

A. Yes, there are two areas I would like to address – the status of actions launched by our trading partners and the U.S. under the dispute settlement mechanism of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the newly announced U.S. initiatives to enter into bilateral trade negotiations with Japan, the European Union (EU), and the United Kingdom (U.K.).

Regarding the WTO actions, disputes over newly imposed U.S. tariffs and retaliatory measures have resulted in twelve actions seeking adjudication by the WTO dispute settlement body. Seven countries (the EU, Canada, China, Mexico, Russia, Norway, and Turkey) have brought actions alleging that the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs violated WTO rules. The U.S. countered by filing complaints against the EU, Canada, China, and Mexico for the retaliatory tariffs they imposed in response to the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs. The U.S. also filed a separate action against China alleging that China failed to protect U.S. intellectual property rights.

All of these actions are on the agenda for discussion at the upcoming October 29 meeting of the WTO’s dispute settlement body. The WTO’s dispute settlement rules provide a 60-day period for the parties to try to work out their disputes before they can be brought before the WTO dispute settlement body. No resolution was reached on any of these 12 actions, and all have asked the WTO to adjudicate their claims. The next step would be for the WTO to appoint specific adjudicators to weigh the merits of the claims and issue a ruling. This process can, and likely will, take a year or more to complete. Hopefully, these disputes can be resolved between the parties in a shorter timeframe.

While global trade tensions remain high due to these disputes, on a more positive note, the U.S. administration formerly notified the Congress on October 16 of its intention to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with Japan, the EU, and the U.K. In advance of the launching of the negotiations, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will consult with the Congress and solicit public input to formulate its negotiating objectives for the talks. The talks are expected to address both tariff and non-tariff barriers with the objective of achieving “fairer and more balanced trade.” The actual negotiations are not expected to begin before January 14 with the EU and Japan. The negotiations with the U.K. won’t begin until after it exits from the EU on March 29, 2019.  Interested parties should be sure to follow the process closely as it unfolds and make your views known to USTR and the Congress to ensure your issues are addressed.