Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria
Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria

China has filed a petition with the World Trade Organization arguing that recently imposed US tariffs on washing machines and solar panels “are not consistent” with international rules, according to media reports Wednesday.

The filing follows South Korea’s decision in late January to challenge the tariffs, as well as the Chinese Commerce Ministry’s announcement on Sunday that it would open an anti-dumping investigation into US sorghum imports.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington are divided about whether or not to try to reduce America’s growing trade deficit, which the Trump administration has pledged to eliminate. The US trade gap in goods surged 8.1% last year to hit a record US$375 billion.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday backed away from the Trump administration’s pledge to eliminate the trade deficit in as little as two years, Politico reports. But he reaffirmed a commitment that the “trade deficit ultimately will be reduced through a combination of enforcement actions, renegotiation of some existing agreements and negotiation of new agreements.”

A spokesperson for Republican Senator Orin Hatch pushed back on the administration’s approach saying that “a focus on fluctuations in the trade balance is misguided.”

“The [Senate Finance Committee Chairman] believes the administration should pursue a trade agenda that will expand opportunities overseas, attract investment to the US, and maintain low prices for American families,” she added.

Some Democrats cited the ballooning deficit number to urge Trump to restrict steel and aluminum imports, and push for strong and enforceable labor provisions in talks on revising NAFTA.

The back and forth underscores Trump’s departure from his party’s traditional stance in support of free trade towards greater alignment with the more populist Democratic position.