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.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel