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On Tuesday, the World Trade Organization ruled that tariffs the Trump Administration imposed on Chinese imports in 2018 are a violation of international trade rules—handing China a symbolic victory in the prolonged trade war.
But the ruling is unlikely to have any practical effect. The Trump White House, long scornful of the WTO, has neutered the body’s key arbitration court—the Appellate Body—creating a loophole that could leave the dispute unresolved.
For the Tuesday ruling, a three-person panel considered a complaint filed by China in 2018, which argued that tariffs Washington imposed on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports violated international trade rules. Under WTO regulations, members must treat each other as equal. Levying sanctions against only one member state contravenes that credo.