Ships loaded with steel rods and steel wire are moored at a depot in this aerial photograph taken on the outskirts of Shanghai, China. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

China, U.S. Trade Barbs Over Who Is Threatening Trade System

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. shot back at China’s assertion that Donald Trump was undermining the World Trade Organization with his decision to impose $50 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese products.

“The WTO system is not threatened -- as China claims -- where a member takes steps to address harmful, trade-distorting policies not directly covered by WTO rules,” a U.S. trade official said during a WTO meeting in Geneva on Tuesday, according to a copy of the statement provided by the U.S. trade representative.

The comments come a day after China’s Ambassador to the WTO Zhang Xiangchen said the “WTO is under siege” due to Trump’s decision to impose “purely unilateral” tariffs against the Asian nation. Last week, Trump ordered U.S Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to draft a list of tariffs on Chinese products in order to penalize China for stealing U.S. intellectual property and technology secrets.

The U.S. delegation said Tuesday that China is the one undermining the WTO when it says countries aren’t permitted to protect their domestic industries from harmful competition abroad.

“If the WTO is seen instead as protecting those members that choose to adopt policies that can be shown to undermine the fairness and balance of the international trading system, then the WTO and the international trading system will lose all credibility and support among our citizens,” the official said.

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