International trade barriers: The national security clause

Despite the solidmovement made under the World trade organization negotiations to set up a free international trade, every country in the world has establishedcertain barriers to trade. Indeed , the World Trade organization law has enabled Members to take necessary trade restrictions to protect public morals, human, animal or plant life or health, and other restrictions on international trade of goods based on article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 but with the cornerstone precaution that such measures are not applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where the same conditions prevail, or a disguised restriction on international trade.

Besides, Article II of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 did not prevent WTO Members from imposing at any time on the importation of any product any antidumping or countervailing duty applied consistently with the provisions of Article VI of the of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994.

Furthermore, WTO Members can under Article XIX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 and consistently with the substantive and procedural conditions highlighted in the Agreement of safeguard impose safeguard measures to the extent and for such time as may be necessary to prevent or remedy serious injury to the domestic industry producing like or directly competitive product.

However, the practice of the WTO Members have shown that the slowdown of the economy has usually produced a new series of protectionist measures with the view to limit the quantity and presence of the imported product in the importing countries without seriously considering their obligations under the WTO pre-established rules and conditions.

Currently, the United States made use of section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The purpose of the national security investigation is to determine the effect of imports on the national security. Investigations may be initiated based on an application from an interested party, a request from the head of any department or agency, or may be self-initiated by the Secretary of Commerce.The Secretary’s report to the President, prepared within 270 days of initiation, focuses on whether the importation of the article in question is in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security. The President can concur or not with the Secretary’s recommendations, and take action to “adjust the imports of an article and its derivatives” or other non-trade related actions as deemed necessary.

On 8th March 2018 the US president issued two proclamations on Adjusting Imports of Steel into the United Statesby imposing a 25 percent ad valorem tariff on steel from all countries except Canada and Mexico.  This relief was judged necessary by the US Administration to help US domestic steel industry to revive idled facilities, open closed mills, preserve necessary skills by hiring new steel workers, and maintain or increase production, which will reduce the US’s need to rely on foreign producers for steel and ensure that domestic producers can continue to supply all the steel necessary for critical industries and national defense.  In parallel, the second proclamation concerns the Adjustment of Imports of Aluminum into the United Statesby imposing a 10 percent ad valorem tariff on aluminum articles imported from all countries except Canada and Mexico.

The US proclamations received mixed reaction from stakeholders with some seeing it as a step that would revive the manufacturing sector while others warned it would lead to a trade war. Various affected WTO Members are currently discussing a country exclusion from the steel and aluminum duties.

The UAE is among the countries, which are concerned by specifically the proclamation on the Adjustment of Imports of Aluminum as it is among the largest export of aluminum to the US market.

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