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International Relations

US, Europe and Japan push for stronger WTO enforcement

Joint reform campaign focuses on subsidy violations

The U.S. took China to the WTO for its steel subsidies a few years ago, but a settlement was not reached.    © Reuters

TOKYO -- The U.S., the European Union and Japan look to bolster the World Trade Organization's enforcement against countries suspected of subsidizing industries in violation of WTO rules, likely with China in mind.

Trade ministers from the three economies will discuss a joint reform proposal when they meet in New York on Sept. 25. They aim to draw up a proposal as early as fall and submit it to the WTO's top decision-making body in Geneva, the General Council.

The joint proposal may require the accused country to show greater evidence and accountability when claims are handled by the WTO's dispute resolution processes.

A country currently faces no penalty for failing to report subsidies that appear to violate WTO rules. Countries suspected of inappropriate subsidies often escape penalties by denying the allegations, such as when Washington alleged several years ago that Beijing subsidized its steel industry.

In an effort to address members' concerns, more meetings would be held by the WTO committees involved in conflict resolution, non-tariff trade barriers and intellectual property.

The WTO faces an urgent challenge to reform its functions and become more responsive to members as the U.S. government takes an increasingly protectionist stance under President Donald Trump and threatens to leave the trade organization.

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