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This Week In Trade

U.S. trade polices under WTO spotlight; U.S.-EU FTA prospects examined

Posted: December 17, 2018

World Trade Organization members will have the chance to air their grievances with the United States as it undergoes its biennial trade policy review in Geneva this week, while stateside, the U.S. International Trade Commission will examine the probable economic impacts of a trade deal between the U.S. and the European Union.

WTO members will have quite a bit to discuss; the U.S. last underwent a trade policy review in December 2016, when WTO members criticized the U.S. for its increased use of antidumping and countervailing duties. Over the past two years, the Trump administration has imposed national security tariffs on steel and aluminum, safeguard tariffs on solar products and tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, and it has been blocking appointments to the WTO’s Appellate Body.

The review will take place on Monday and Wednesday. The U.S. ambassador to the WTO, Dennis Shea, will lead a team of 23 U.S. officials, including six from Washington, DC. The WTO Secretariat prepared a 240-page report for the TPR and the U.S. government submitted its own 30-page report.

A potential trans-Atlantic trade deal will be closely examined for the second straight week as the ITC will hold a hearing on the probable economic impacts of a U.S.-EU agreement. Last week, trade groups provided testimony to the USTR-led Trade Policy Staff Committee about what they wanted to see in a deal. Agriculture groups are seeking market access and changes to EU regulations they see as discriminatory. Business groups also raised longstanding trans-Atlantic regulatory issues.

The ITC investigation will include analyzing the impacts of removing tariffs from agricultural products, despite the EU’s insistence that agriculture is outside of the scope of any potential trade deal with the U.S. However, U.S. officials have repeatedly said they believe agriculture will have to be included in a U.S.-EU pact.

U.S.-China trade relations remain on everyone’s minds and will be discussed at two events this week. On Tuesday, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and U.S. will discuss the possibility of “a new Cold War” as it reviews the past year of U.S.-China relations. Participants include Meredith Oyen, associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Yun Sun, co-director of the Stimson Center's East Asia Program; Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute; J. Stapleton Roy, founding director emeritus of the Kissinger Institute; and Katie Stallard-Blanchette, former head of Sky News' Asia Bureau.

The Global Business Dialogue will discuss third-country reactions to U.S.-China trade disputes on Wednesday. Participating will be Elisabeth Bowes, minister-counselor at the Australian embassy's foreign affairs and trade department; Shige Watanabe, minister-counselor at the Japanese embassy's economic section; Philip Houlding, trade and economic counselor at the embassy of New Zealand; and Tami Overby, senior director of McLarty Associates

The Court of International Trade will hear oral arguments in New York City in the American Institute for International Steel’s challenge of the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs. AIIS claims that Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 amounts to an improper delegation of congressional authority to the executive branch.

Treasury is also expected to issue a rule on modernized drawback this week that will likely eliminate substitution drawback, which will draw a legal challenge from at least one industry group. -- Brett Fortnam (bfortnam@iwpnews.com)