US gains trade victory in auto dispute with China

GENEVA – The United States has scored a victory before the World Trade Organization in a case that challenged China’s imposition of penalty tariffs on the sale of $5 billion in U.S.-made vehicles in China.

A WTO panel ruled Friday that China’s tariffs violated international trade rules. The ruling came during a week when the U.S. Justice Department charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into U.S. companies’ computer systems to steal trade secrets.

The two developments pointed to intensifying trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

The dispute panel for the Geneva-based WTO sided with the United States in its ruling. It said China had acted “inconsistently” in imposing the anti-dumping requirements in violation of its WTO commitments.

U.S. officials said China withdrew the higher tariffs in December in response to indications that it would lose the WTO case.

Officials said they pushed forward with the case to establish the precedent that China’s actions violated global trade rules.

The WTO allows countries to raise import duties to offset improper subsidies and dumping. But the complaint the Obama administration filed in 2012 accused Beijing of improperly imposing the anti-dumping duties.