US appeals WTO ruling in a dispute over import duties on Indian steel

Washington is appealing a World Trade Organization ruling in a dispute over import duties on Indian steel products, despite having recently forced the body's appeals unit to suspend operations.

Last month, a WTO panel found that Washington had failed to fully comply with a five-year-old ruling ordering it to bring the duties it slaps on certain steel imports from India into line with global trade rules.

The United States announced Wednesday it would appeal the November ruling during a meeting of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body -- sometimes called the supreme court of world trade, according to a Geneva trade official.

But the DSB no longer has a functioning appellate branch, after its activities effectively ground to a halt on December 11 following years of relentless US opposition. Washington, which accuses the court of serious overreach, has blocked the appointment of new judges, leaving it without the quorum of three needed to hear cases due to mandatory retirements.

But countries will still be able to file grievances and can bilaterally agree to range of measures to avoid uncertainty -- including waiving the right of appeal or taking the case through a previously rarely used ad hoc arbitration process.

The United States indicated Wednesday it would discuss with India a way forward in the dispute, the trade official said.

The US and India have been at odds over steel imports for years.

India first filed its complaint at the WTO in 2012, after Washington imposed duties of nearly 300 per cent on imports of products including carbon-quality steel pipes, after complaining that Indian steel manufacturers were benefitting from unfair subsidies.

The global trade body then ruled in 2014 that the duties constituted a breach of global trade rules, and ordered Washington to bring its practices into line. But India complained that Washington was failing to comply with that ruling and asked the WTO to weigh in again.

In November's ruling, the DSB panel rejected several charges by India but found that the US had "failed to comply with the recommendations and rulings of the DSB in the original dispute." "We recommend that the United States bring its measures into conformity with its obligations," that ruling said.

The WTO polices global trade accords in an effort to offer its member economies a level playing field.

Its panels can authorise retaliatory trade measures by the wronged party if its rival fails to fall into line.



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