Norway sues US over ‘illegal’ import tax

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It’s highly unusual for allied nations to sue one another, but Norway is joining the European Union (EU) in filing a legal complaint against the US’ Trump Administration over its new customs duty on steel and aluminum. Norway claims the import tax violates the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and Trade Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen were in Shanghai on Thursday, taking part in the Norwegian royal couple’s state visit to China. Later that afternoon, Søreide announced that Norway would be filing a legal complaint against the US over its punitive import fees on steel and aluminum. PHOTO: NMD/Trond Viken

US President Donald Trump imposed the equivalent of a 25 percent import tax on steel and a 10 percent tax on aluminum. The goal is to make imported metals so expensive that it may revive the US’ own steel and aluminum industries.

“We believe the US’ additional tax on steel and aluminum violates WTO regulations,” Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide stated in a press release issued by the ministry Thursday afternoon. “Therefore we, together with the EU and several other countries, have asked the WTO to set up an arbitration panel.”

She said the Norwegian government wants “an independent evaluation” of the punitive import taxes that are threatening to set off more trade wars. The evaluation can take more than a year, with the WTO’s report also subject to appeal.

Norway has already been in so-called “consultations” with the US delegation to the WTO in Geneva. The EU countries, Canada, India, China, Mexico, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey also took part in the consultations in an effort to ward off a formal complaint to the WTO. Negotiations were, however, unsuccessful and the Trump Administration is moving forward with its controversial new fees meant to make imported steel and aluminum far more expensive for customers in the US.

The new fees will harm Norwegian and EU exports of steel and aluminum to the US. Norway’s are modest at best already, valued at only around NOK 90 million (USD 11 million) a year, but Norway is keen to support the EU and especially Germany, which also faces punitive import fees on automobiles sent to the US. Germany, in turn, is one of Norway’s biggest markets for car parts. That will be hurt if Germany is hurt.

“Even though our exports to the US are modest, this is a case that’s important in principle,” Søreide said. “The government is standing up for Norwegian business that’s met by illegal trade restrictions, and defending the regulation-based trade system.”

newsinenglish.no staff