Participants at a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) had sharp words for the blanket 10-percent tariffs on aluminium instituted by United States President Donald Trump that went into effect earlier that day.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo summarized the sentiments of the meeting’s participants in a statement his office released later that day.
“Actions taken outside these collective processes greatly increase the risk of escalation in a confrontation that will have no winners, and which could quickly lead to a less stable trading system.
“Disrupting trade flows will jeopardize the global economy at a time when economic recovery, though fragile, has been increasingly evident around the world. I again call for restraint and urgent dialogue as the best path forward to resolve these problems.”
In addition to Azevêdo’s general warning against the White House’s unilateral tariffs, several member countries went on record at the meeting with statements attacking the Trump administration’s logic as well, according to anonymous sources claiming knowledge of the discussions.
Per the anonymous source, Russian questioned the administration’s logic in exempting certain countries and not others, while Turkey wondered aloud how such tariffs square with the established rules of the WTO.
Japan termed the tariffs as a regrettable situation, and representatives from the Republic of Korea cautioned that using the national security rationale ran the risk of setting off a chain reaction of other states abusing the excuse. According to sources, South Korea’s sentiments were echoed by several other of the meeting’s participants.
The representative from the People’s Republic of China had the harshest words for the tariffs, according to sources. Terming the tariffs as “groundless” and a violation of a score of the WTO’s provisions, the representative cited trade barriers erected by the United States in the early part of the 20th century as leading to the Great Depression and World War II.
For its part, the United States representative did not address the criticism head on, but stated that the tariffs were in line with WTO rules.