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article imageMexico to file WTO complaint over US tariffs: ministry

By Jennifer GONZALEZ COVARRUBIAS (AFP)     Jun 4, 2018 in World

Mexico said on Monday it will file a complaint with the World Trade Organization over US tariffs on its steel and aluminum.

The economy ministry said it will "initiate a dispute settlement process under the umbrella" of the WTO, and that its actions will "continue to follow the state of international commercial law and will be proportional to the damage that Mexico regrettably received."

Both the European Union and Canada have already opened legal challenges to the United States at the WTO, the Geneva-based arbitrator of international trade disputes that is loathed by President Donald Trump who on Friday imposed duties of 25 percent for steel and 10 percent for aluminum against his allies.

Mexico submits that the tariffs, imposed on the grounds of national security, were not adopted in accordance with relevant WTO procedures and also violate the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Immediately following the move by Trump, Mexico said it would impose retaliatory duties on a variety of US goods, including steel and a host of agricultural products including apples, cheeses and pork.

Those penalties will remain in place "until the United States government eliminates tariffs imposed," Mexico's government said.

Other US allies have also reacted with fury and retaliation, with fears building of a global trade war.

Ottawa hit back with proportional Can$16.6 billion ($12.8 billion US) in tariffs on US steel and aluminum as well as consumer goods.

The tariff dispute comes as Canada, Mexico and the US try to reach an agreement to update the North American Free Trade Agreement in talks triggered last year by Trump's discontent with that deal.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Washington's decision to impose the tariffs had lessened the chances for a successful outcome of the NAFTA talks.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, spoke as soon as Washington announced the new duties.

- Rising tensions -

"These unilateral tariffs, imposed under a false pretext of safeguarding US national security, are inconsistent with the United States' international trade obligations and WTO rules," Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday after her country filed its WTO complaint.

Mexico has received backing in the dispute from its domestic business sector.

"We support the position of the Mexican government to impose the equivalent measure on diverse products," Mexico's Business Coordinating Council said of the retaliatory tariffs.

The group rejected "the protectionist measures of the United States government."

Mexican Finance Minister Jose Antonio Gonzalez Anaya said the US tariffs -- along with Trump's tweets against Mexico -- further raise tensions over the NAFTA review.

"It is very difficult to reach a negotiation when measures of this nature are suddenly taken," the minister said.

Ties between Washington and Mexico City have also been strained over immigration.

US media reported in February that the two sides shelved tentative plans for a visit to Washington by Pena Nieto as tensions persisted over a proposed border wall.

Pena Nieto had previously scrapped a visit in January last year because of Trump's insistence that Mexico pay for the wall, which he wants as part of his efforts to curb immigration.

The US is Mexico's largest trading partner, receiving about 80 percent of the country's exports.

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