September 11, 2018

Beijing on Monday promised unspecified "countermeasures" if President Trump continues to escalate his trade war with China, and a Tuesday publication of a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting agenda indicated what some of them might be. China is planning to ask the WTO for permission to sanction the U.S. for imposing tariffs that violate a 2016 WTO ruling.

The type of tariff in question is called a "dumping duty," and it is being imposed on imported Chinese goods the Commerce Department says are priced below U.S. market value. At issue is how these tariffs are calculated: The U.S. uses a method called "zeroing," and China says it is illegal under the 2016 decision.

While the timing of this revelation suggests retaliation against Trump's tariff hikes — and the sanctions in practice will likely function as a rebuke of Trump — China has objected to U.S. dumping duties for years. The 2016 decision, which was confirmed on appeal in 2017, was the result of a dispute launched in 2013, well before Trump took office. This new action is specifically prompted by the administration's failure to meet an Aug. 22 deadline to change its calculation procedures to comply with the WTO rules. Bonnie Kristian

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