Test of Multilateralism in International Trade: U.S. Steel Safeguards

Lee, Y.S. | January 1, 2004

The highly publicized safeguard measures applied by the United States to an array of steel products in 2002 became one of the biggest and most controversial trade disputes in recent history. Virtually all major trading nations in the world, including the European Community, Japan , China , Brazil , Korea , New Zealand , Switzerland and Norway , were the direct parties to this dispute with the United States . The contentious legal grounds of the U.S. safeguard measures, as well as the lack of adequate consultations between the United States and its trading counterparts, have brought the international community close to a full-scale trade war. This paper considers the important legal issues debated in U.S. Steel Safeguards and discusses how the multilateral framework in the in the international trading system affected resolution of this case. It also draws lessons for the future application of trade measures such as safeguards under the multilateral framework of the international trading system.