Certain WTO countries, including India, Switzerland, Russia, and Japan, have criticised the safeguard measures imposed by the EU and the UK on imports of certain steel products, stating it is inconsistent with global trade rules, an official said.
The comments were made by these countries during the meeting of World Trade Organisation's (WTO's) Safeguards Committee on Wednesday.
The Geneva-based official said, "Switzerland, Brazil, Japan, China, Korea, Russia and India criticised the European Union's decision to maintain its safeguard measure on imports of certain steel products, which was imposed by the EU after the US imposed additional duties on steel imports during the Trump administration”.
These members regretted the EU's decision not to terminate the measure during a recent review and argued the safeguard was inconsistent with WTO rules, the official said.
However, the EU argued that the safeguard will expire at the end of June 2024.
Further India, Korea, Switzerland, Japan, Russia and Brazil "criticised the UK for maintaining its safeguard measures on imports of certain steel products", the official said.
These WTO member countries argued that the measure was not in compliance with WTO rules.
India last year proposed additional customs duties of 15 per cent on the import of 22 products, including whiskey, cheese and diesel engine parts, from the UK in retaliation to Britain's decision to impose restrictions on steel products.
In a communication to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), India in September 2022 stated that it is estimated that the safeguard measures taken by the UK on steel products have resulted in the decline of exports to the tune of 2,19,000 tonnes on which the duty collection would be USD 247.7 million.
The measures imposed by the UK consist of tariff-rate quotas imposed on 15 steel product categories with an out-of-quota duty of 25 per cent.
In 2021, India had also proposed similar measures against the European Union (EU) under the aegis of the WTO against a move of the 28-nation bloc to impose safeguard duties on certain steel products.
The WTO is a Geneva-based, 164-member global body, which frames rules and norms for exports and imports and adjudicates trade disputes among member countries.
India has substantial interest as an exporter of these products.
India is concerned about the European Union's move as it exports nearly 6 per cent of its steel output to Italy -- a member of the EU.
Duties like anti-dumping, safeguard, and countervailing are trade remedy measures, provided under an agreement of the WTO to its member countries. They are used to provide a level-playing field to domestic industry in case of dumping of goods, significant increase in imports and subsidised imports.
Further, the official said Korea and Singapore questioned India on its safeguard measure on Isopropyl Alcohol.
India responded by saying that the measure is due to expire on March 21 next year.
The next meeting of the safeguards committee will take place in April 2024.
Under the WTO's Safeguards Agreement, a member may restrict imports of a product temporarily (take 'safeguard' actions) through higher tariffs (import duties) or other measures if its domestic industry is seriously injured, or threatened with serious injury, due to an unforeseen surge in imports.
An import surge justifying safeguard action can be a real increase in imports; or it can be an increase in the imports' share of a shrinking market, even if the import quantity has not increased.
In principle, safeguard measures apply to all imports and not just those from a particular country (developing countries accounting for less than 3 per cent of exports are excluded from a measure), and should not last more than four years.
Because safeguards target "fair" trade, an exporting country can seek compensation for lost trade through consultations or, if no agreement is reached, it can raise tariffs on exports from the country that is enforcing the safeguard measure.