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The United States on Monday launched challenges at the World Trade Organization to hit back at the major trading partners that have retaliated against President Donald Trump’s tariffs on metals and goods from China.
Washington opened separate disputes against China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Turkey, challenging the counter-tariffs those countries have imposed on American farm exports and machinery, the US Trade Representative said in a statement.
Despite outrage over the US actions, the White House says alleged unfair trade by these economies means Trump’s stinging tariffs are justified – but retaliation is not.
‘The actions taken by the president are wholly legitimate and fully justified as a matter of US law and international trade rules,’ US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.
‘Instead of working with us to address a common problem, some of our trading partners have elected to respond with retaliatory tariffs designed to punish American workers, farmers and companies.’
Lighthizer said the counter-tariffs breached WTO obligations.
Since March, Trump has ratcheted up pressure on China and traditional allies, imposing tariffs on scores of billions of imports in steel, aluminum, washing machines, solar panels and broad swathes of Chinese manufactured goods and machinery.
Mexico’s Economy Ministry vowed to defend itself against the new US actions at the WTO.
‘The measures applied by Mexico were in response to the duties imposed, unjustly and with national security argument, by the US government on imports of Mexican steel aluminum,’ the ministry said in a statement.
‘US purchases of Mexican steel and aluminum do not represent a national security threat to that country.’
According to the US Chamber of Commerce, retaliatory tariffs on US exports – targeted to cause pain in the voting areas on which the governing Republican party relies heavily – now cover about $75 billion in American exports.
Trump this month responded to Beijing’s retaliatory duties on American goods by formally beginning a process which could see tariffs imposed on an additional $200 billion in Chinese products as soon as September.
The International Monetary Fund warned that growing trade restrictions were ‘the greatest near-term threat’ to the world economy, amid projections for slower growth in Germany, France, Japan and China.
‘If countries could cooperate to revise the multilateral system in a way that allowed them better to address the tensions that have been out there, that would be very positive for global growth,’ IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld told reporters.