March 20, 2018 / 6:56 PM / 8 months ago

WTO set for fractious meeting as U.S. trade policy grates

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization is set for a cacophonous meeting on Friday when the United States, China and the European Union will be among those airing grievances about each other’s trade policies, an agenda for the meeting showed on Tuesday.

Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) addresses a news conference in New Delhi, India March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The WTO’s Council for Trade in Goods listed 15 potential trade conflicts on an unusually full agenda, including three apiece aimed at the United States and China.

Earlier on Tuesday, India hosted an informal WTO meeting of nearly 50 countries in New Delhi, where they warned about the serious threat to the WTO from unilateral trade actions, a pointed reference to steel and aluminium tariffs imposed by the United States that have caused a global outcry.

The Council’s agenda showed China and Russia had both proposed a debate on U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial tariffs, as well as U.S. policies on imports of fish and seafood.

China has also requested discussion of U.S. “safeguard” tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, which Trump signed into law in January.

Japan plans to raise concerns about China’s new export control law, and — together with the United States — about a recent decree on the auto industry in Vietnam.

The United States wants a discussion of China’s restrictions on imports of scrap materials. China said last year it would refuse to import many types of waste paper and plastic as part of a campaign against “foreign garbage”.

The United States also wants to discuss the African Union’s new import levy, while Malaysia, a major palm oil producer, will raise the EU’s energy directive, which it described in January as “crop apartheid”.

Several other agenda items were issues that have been raised at least once before, including Russian trade restrictions, India’s duties on computer and IT products, and China’s duties on integrated circuits.

The items for debate do not amount to trade disputes, but they serve as a warning shot and give disgruntled countries a chance to show the strength of feeling about particular policies.

There was no detail on the agenda, which simply listed the trade concerns that would be debated.

Reporting by Tom Miles, editing by Larry King

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