Switzerland has just lodged an official complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO), claiming President Trump’s tariffs are unjustified. Switzerland is objecting to the steel and aluminum tariffs Trump has imposed on Switzerland, among other countries – Swiss companies exported about $80 million in steel and aluminum products into the U.S. last year. This is the first step in dispute resolution – if the WTO sides against the United States, it can authorize further trade retaliation against the U.S.
Certainly Switzerland’s complaint that Trump’s tariffs against them are unjustified is credible. Under Section 232 U.S. law, President Trump only has the authority to impose tariffs for reasons of national security – tariffs for other reasons must be approved by Congress. So Trump is claiming the tariffs he imposed, including the metals tariffs, are for national security reasons when many of the countries involved, including Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, and the countries of the EU, are allies who clearly do not represent a national security threat to the United States. According to The Hill:
Switzerland is just the latest country to file a lawsuit against the United States over the tariffs, joining the European Union, among others. Other countries have taken steps to retaliate against U.S. exports, prompting fears of a wider trade war…“In order to protect Switzerland’s interests, Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann has taken the decision to initiate WTO dispute settlement proceedings,” the statement continued. “Other WTO members affected by the tariffs, including Canada, the EU, Mexico, and Norway, have also requested consultations with the US.”…Switzerland echoed other U.S. allies in arguing that the president was “unjustified” in declaring a national security reason for initiating the tariffs…”From Switzerland’s point of view, the additional duties, which according to the US have been introduced to protect national security, are unjustified,” the statement read.
Switzerland is not at present an EU member country, which is why it filed a case with the WTO separate from the one the EU filed, but it is a member of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) and has many deals on trade and border security in place with the EU.
The people of Switzerland showed their opposition to President Trump by staging large scale protests at the Davos, Switzerland, World Economic Forum earlier this year, including hanging an enormous “Trump Not Welcome” sign on a cliff face along the route Trump’s helicopter took to the forum. Here is a video from Buzzfeed about the anti-Trump protests in Switzerland, including the hanging of that cliffside banner. An the organizer of that part of the protest, Andreas Freimuller, said of Trump in the video, “He’s going to see that on television, because that’s how he sees the world anyway.”
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) January 26, 2018
Add Switzerland to the growing list of countries who aren’t simply accepting President Trump’s tariffs as Trump had expected. For some illogical reason, President Trump apparently believed that countries would simply accept his tariffs without retaliating, suing, or filing official complaints with the World Trade Organization, which has the authority to approve further retaliatory efforts if it sides against the United States. Trump was of course wrong about that, as these countries are not just going to go along with Trump’s bullying and diplomatically destructive behavior. The trade war that is brewing is completely Trump’s fault.