Under the WTO Safeguards Agreement, a member may restrict imports of a product temporarily (take “safeguard” actions) through higher tariffs or other measures if its domestic industry is seriously injured, or threatened with serious injury, due to an unforeseen surge in imports. Unlike anti-dumping duties, safeguard measures cover imports from all sources, although imports from developing country members with a small share of imports are exempted through special and differential treatment provisions.
Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Australia, the United States and China voiced their general concerns over the rising use of safeguard measures by WTO members. For Japan, Korea and Switzerland, their concerns focused on the steel sector. Australia said members should be mindful that safeguards are emergency measures targeting fairly-traded goods, and expressed concern about the increasing number of provisional safeguard measures being applied.
The United States said that the number of new safeguard investigations already launched this year (28) is the second highest annual number on record, and that members need to determine whether these actions are truly in response to emergency actions. China said it was concerned about the increasing number of safeguard measures which should be restricted to emergency situations only.
Review of legislative notifications
The committee reviewed new safeguard legislative notifications from Canada and Kenya, and continued reviews of previously-reviewed legislative notifications from Afghanistan, Cameroon, El Salvador, Liberia, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam.
Notifications of actions related to safeguard measures
The committee reviewed various notifications of actions related to safeguard measures received since the last committee meeting from the following members: Canada; Costa Rica; members of the Gulf Cooperation Council; Egypt; members of the Eurasian Economic Union; the European Union; Guatemala, India; Indonesia; Jordan; Madagascar; Morocco; Panama; the Philippines; South Africa; Turkey; Ukraine; the United States; and Viet Nam.
Several members informed the committee that existing safeguard measures have been removed or that safeguard investigations have been terminated without measures being imposed. These include:
- The Philippines — Rice
- Panama — Pork
- Madagascar — Soap
- Turkey — Certain steel products
Separate matters raised
Other matters addressed as separate agenda items at the committee meeting were US measures on steel (requested by Turkey) and Colombia's safeguard investigation on sheets of paperboard and polyethylene (raised by Brazil).
Under other business, Switzerland asked the European Union about the impact of the United Kingdom's possible departure from the EU on the EU's existing safeguard measures.
The next meeting of the Committee on Safeguards is provisionally scheduled for the week of 27 April 2020.
More background on safeguards is available here.