China launches WTO complaint on U.S. tariffs linked to IP issues

GENEVA (Reuters) - China has sought consultations with the United States, the first step in a WTO dispute, over its announced tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports on grounds of alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property, the World Trade Organization said on Thursday.

The notification to the Geneva-based watchdog triggered a 60-day deadline for the two sides to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO by a neutral panel of arbitrators.

China has already condemned the U.S. announcement and said on Tuesday it would “take corresponding measures of equal scale and strength against U.S. products” and that it would resort to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism.

The U.S. tariff plan is based on Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act.

China, in its notice to the WTO, said it was seeking consultations “concerning the proposed tariffs measures that the United States accords to certain goods in various sectors including machinery, electronics, etc. originating in China”.

China claimed the tariffs would exceed the United States’ bound rates and appeared to violate provisions of WTO agreements, some dating back to its predecessor body, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

The complaint does not put a value on alleged trade damage.

Earlier on Thursday, China’s commerce ministry said it has initiated a WTO dispute resolution procedure over U.S. tariffs on its import of steel and aluminum.

That separate request has yet to be posted by the WTO.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Catherine Evans