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South African Iron and Steel Institute

WTO Ruled Against Section 232 USA Tariffs

13 Dec 2022

On 09 December 2022, the World Trade Organization dispute-settlement panels found the USA violated international trade rules with its tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.

The ruling covers the Section 232 import duties imposed in 2018 on national-security grounds, citing the need to protect domestic manufacturers from global overproduction of the metals.  

The ruling follows complaints by China, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, that the USA violated its obligations under WTO agreements. The complaints argued that the tariffs weren’t justified under the national-security exceptions because “the measures were not taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations”.

However, the WTO panels’ ruling was strongly USA as being a flawed interpretation of the rules and conclusions. It is likely that the USA would appeal the decision. 

South Africa remain affected by Section 232 import duties although other steel exporters to the USA are already largely shielded from the impact of the tariffs through exemptions. The Trump administration had allowed duty-free imports from, amongst others, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and.