by Bryce Baschuk
The World Trade Organization’s dispute mechanism is facing the most critical period in its history as the U.S. prepares to take a more aggressive approach toward the Geneva-based organization. Since 1994, the U.S. has filed over 110 WTO dispute cases against its trading partners and defended itself in nearly 130 cases.
While governments file WTO cases, the findings can directly affect companies. Here are the biggest disputes now brewing:
1. China Fights Back on Dumping
- The dispute: China alleges the U.S. and EU impose unfair anti-dumping duties its products.
- What’s at stake: A loss for the U.S. and EU could hurt their ability to protect domestic producers from an influx of cheap Chinese products. The U.S. and EU may have to modify anti-dumping rules or face retaliation from China.
- Expected time frame: An investigation should begin in 2017. A final WTO decision is expected in 2018 or 2019.
- Interested companies: AK Steel Holding Corp., Allegheny Technologies Inc., Carpenter Technology Corp., Commercial Metals Co., and Nucor Corp., Steel Dynamics Inc., and U.S. Steel Corp. ArcelorMittal S.A., ThyssenKrupp AG, Acerinox S.A, Aperam SA, British Steel Ltd, Gruppo Riva, Salzgitter AG, SSAB AB, and Voestalpine AG.
2. China’s Raw Materials
- The dispute: The U.S. and EU allege China imposed unfair export restrictions on raw materials used to manufacture airplanes, cars, computers and mobile phones.
- What’s at stake: If China loses it must eliminate export curbs or face the threat of billions of dollars in retaliatory trade measures.
- Expected time frame: The investigation and a final decision are likely in 2018 or 2019.
- Interested companies: Apple Inc., Boeing Co., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Nucor Corp., the U.S. Steel Corp. and Vulcan Materials Co. ArcelorMittal S.A., ThyssenKrupp AG, Airbus Group SE, Volkswagen Group, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Groupe Renault, Groupe PSA, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, and Daimler AG.
3. China’s Aluminum
- The dispute: The U.S. alleges China provided domestic aluminum producers with artificially cheap bank loans and illegal subsidies for inputs like coal, electricity and alumina.
- What’s at stake: If China loses, it must modify its loans and subsidies.
- Expected time frame: Informal consultations may begin this year. If they fail, a WTO panel may be established before the end of 2017.
- Interested companies: Alcoa Inc., Aleris International Inc., Century Aluminum Co., Kaiser Aluminum, and Reynolds Group Holdings.
4. China’s Food
- The dispute: The U.S. alleges China provided more than $100 billion in illegal government subsidies for producing rice, wheat and corn.
- What’s at stake: If China loses it may have to adjust subsidies or face U.S. retaliation.
- Expected time frame: The investigation should begin in 2017 with a final decision likely in 2018 or 2019.
- Interested companies: American Rice Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Co., the Rice Corporation, Bunge Ltd., and Cargill Inc. Louis Dreyfus Co.
5. Air Wars
- The dispute: The U.S. and EU are mired in a lengthy dispute over their respective aircraft manufacturing tax and subsidy regimes for Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE.
- What’s at stake: The U.S. and EU may be liable for billions of dollars in retaliatory trade measures. The case stems from the ending of a 1992 bilateral aircraft pact that allowed each to provide a certain level of support to their domestic aircraft industries.
- Expected time frame: WTO appellate rulings are expected in late 2017 or early 2018.
- Interested companies: Boeing Co., Airbus Group SE.
6. Australia’s Smokes
- The dispute: Four countries say Australia’s 2011 tobacco plain packaging rules impose unfair curbs on the use of trademarks and geographical indications.
- What’s at stake: An adverse ruling could force Australia to revise its anti-smoking law and halt new plain packaging rules. If it wins, it could encourage other countries to enact new health-related warnings and policies that affect tobacco and products like junk food and alcohol.
- Expected time frame: The ruling is expected in mid 2017.
- Interested companies: China National Tobacco Corp., Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, Imperial Brands Plc , Altria Group Inc.
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Dara Doyle, Albertina Torsoli
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