China, U.S. spar at WTO meeting over disputes

China and the United States exchanged sharp criticism at a World Trade Organization meeting on Friday, with Beijing calling Washington a “unilateral bully” and the U.S. accusing its rival of illegal retaliatory measures.

China’s ambassador to the WTO Li Chenggang spoke at a meeting on trade disputes shortly after the United States lodged an appeal against a series of WTO rulings involving China, Turkey, Norway and Switzerland which found that U.S. metal tariffs breached global rules.

“These troubling behaviors of the U.S. have clearly depicted an image of the U.S. as a unilateral bully, a rule breaker, and a supply chain disruptor,” he said, according to a copy of his speech obtained by Reuters.

The WTO has made important rulings against the United States in recent weeks, including the metals ruling involving China and a separate dispute with Hong Kong over labeling which Washington also appealed. Washington, which has long criticized the WTO dispute system for overreach and is leading discussions on reforming it, has criticized both rulings.

The United States said it regretted the metal tariffs dispute with China was even on the agenda at the meeting and accused Beijing of imposing “illegal unilateral retaliatory measures” on U.S. exports.

“A WTO that serves to shield China’s non-market policies and practices is not in anyone’s interest,” said Deputy United States Trade Representative Maria Pagan, according to a copy of her speech.

The WTO will not be able to review Washington’s appeal of the metals case because its top appeals bench is paralyzed after the United States blocked new judges.

“China would have hoped that the U.S. would show due self-restraint not to appeal every unfavorable panel report into the void, which the U.S. itself has created,” Li said.

In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Pagan played down the significance of more vocal criticism of Washington by China at WTO meetings. “You can call us whatever names you want,” she said. “We are continuing to talk to China.”

Thomson Reuters

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