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EU sends legal challenge to WTO against China’s intellectual property practices

The EU said it has opened legal challenges against China and the United States at the World Trade Organization on Friday as punishing trade tariffs announced by Washington raised the prospects of a global trade war.

The European Union struck back at the US a day after President Donald Trump’s administration angered its major allies by slapping duties of 25 percent and 10 percent on imports of aluminium and steel.

eu wto china us

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom adresses a press conference on the US restrictions on steel and aluminium affecting the EU, at the European Commission in Brussels on June 1, 2018. Photo: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand.

But the European Commission, which handles trade policy for the EU’s 28 member states, also targeted China, sending a message to Washington that it was not being singled out.

“If players in the world don’t stick to the rule book the system might collapse,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told a news briefing in Brussels.

“That is why we are challenging the US and China at the WTO and it demonstrates that we are not choosing any side,” she said.

The Geneva-based WTO confirmed to AFP they had received the EU’s complaint against the US.

The case against China involves Beijing’s intellectual property practices, which bar market access to foreign companies without the granting of sensitive technology to Chinese entities.

The complaint against the US has been planned since March when Trump first announced plans to hit Europe and other allies with the metals tariff.

The WTO’s so-called dispute settlement procedure can take a long time. A previous steel dispute with the US in 2002 took one and a half years with a final decision that fell in favour of the EU.

The Europeans are also planning countermeasures against the US that include counter-duties on steel products, bourbon whiskey, peanut butter, motorcycles and jeans.

EU sends legal challenge to WTO against China's intellectual property practices