In a move that could potentially deal a blow to American trade tariffs enforced under national security concerns, the World Trade Organization is set to rule if that measure is legitimate.
The WTO will issue a ruling in a case where Russia imposed trade restrictions on the Ukraine citing national security. The organization allows countries to “take action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests.” U.S. President Donald Trump has used the measure to impose steel and aluminium tariffs on goods from Canada, Mexico, the European Union, and other countries. A WTO ruling on the Russia dispute could force the U.S. to justify why these nations pose a security threat.
“The fact that the panel is actually going to engage in an inquiry of whether there is basis for these national security measures means things are looking really bleak for the U.S.,” said Nicolas Lamp, a former dispute settlement attorney at the WTO, in an interview with AJOT. “For the U.S., this finding could confirm all their worst fears about the WTO.”
On the U.S. side, trade officials claim the WTO has no authority to mediate national security matters and should only submit a decision stating the matter is outside the WTO’s scope, according to the AJOT.
“The fact that these tariffs are a total violation of our WTO obligations I think is pretty much unequivocal,” Jennifer Hillman, a former WTO appellate body member, said in an interview with AJOT. “That means you are going to have to say that you are in some kind of war with Canada, Mexico and the EU. I don’t think they are going to say that.”
Should the WTO rule in Russia’s favour it could open the door for any country to use protectionist measures citing national security as justification.