Following recent World Trade Organization reform proposals by Canada and the European Union, trade ministers from those two will meet with ministers from Australia, Brazil, Chile, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and Switzerland on October 24-25 to discuss the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), Appellate Body (AB), and plurilateral vs. multilateral obligations. The United States has been blocking new judge nominations to the AB since the last administration in an attempt to drive reform around the dispute settlement process (neither the U.S. nor China will be in attendance at the ministerial meetings this week).
Last week, Norway, China, the EU, Russia, Mexico, Canada, and Turkey requested the establishment of a dispute settlement panel in their cases against the U.S.’s use of Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs (this is the next step after failed consultations). The U.S. views the use of Section 232 tariffs as a national security measure, while these countries view the tariffs as a safeguard in violation of WTO obligations and would like the U.S. to prove the steel and aluminum tariffs are necessary for U.S. national defense. Following the request by Canada, Mexico, and others to establish a panel in their cases, the U.S. requested the establishment of its own DSB panels in its case against the retaliatory tariffs from trading partners. Because the U.S. maintains the WTO has no authority to determine what constitutes a national security risk for its members, the U.S. argues the retaliatory tariffs are unjustified. Many agricultural goods and products are included in the retaliatory lists the U.S. is now challenging.