Section 421: China's WTO Noncompliance and the Protection of U.S. Corporate Interests

By Bouts, Michael W. | Journal of Corporation Law, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview
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Section 421: China's WTO Noncompliance and the Protection of U.S. Corporate Interests

Bouts, Michael W., Journal of Corporation Law

       A. The WTO
       B. Sino--U.S. Trade Relations Overview
           1. China's WTO Accession
           2. United States--China Relations Act of 2000
       C. Possible Remedies for U.S. Companies
          1. The General Safeguard Provision: Section 201
             a. Legal Standard
             b. Procedure
          2. China-Specific Safeguard Provision: Sectios 421
             a. Legal Standard for Imposing Safeguards
                i. Differences Between Sections 421 and 201 in Legal
             b. Procedure for Imposing Section 421 Safeguards
                i. Procedural Differences Between Sections 201 and
       D. The Comparative Success Rates of Sections 421 and 201
       E. The Tires Decision
       A. Why China's Compliance with WTO Obligations Is Important
       B. China Has Failed to Meet Its WTO Obligations
          1. Intellectual Property Rights
          2. Services
          3. Industrial Policy
       C. China's Noncompliance and the Future of Section 421
       A. Create a Monitoring System .
       B. Companies Should Petition the ITC Now
       C. Investigate the Section 421 Negotiation


The United States continues to be a major global force, but the United States' relative power is in decline as the developing world continues its economic and political growth. The United States must increasingly collaborate with emerging powers and rely on the authority of international organizations such as the World Trade organization (WTO). china, particularly, is one of the emerging powers the united States frequently must coordinate with and consult. China's economic and political rise is the major geopolitical issue for the 21st century. china is already a powerful force in the global economy, and trade with what will soon be the world's largest economy is essential for sustained U.S. economic growth.

China's membership in the WTO creates vast opportunities, but also vast potential costs for the United States. U.S. companies will have access to a massive market of goods and services. Yet, china will try to shape the WTO to its own advantage at the expense of other WTO members, including the United States. (1) The WTO regulates international trade law and promotes free trade worldwide. The WTO creates "a more prosperous, peaceful and accountable world." (2) China is failing to implement WTO obligations on schedule, and its noncompliance poses a threat to world trade and global prosperity if China continues to experience no significant negative consequences for its WTO noncompliance.

One way the United States can combat China's WTO noncompliance is through section 421 of the 1974 Trade Act. In 2001, the United States enacted section 421 to protect U.S. companies from Chinese exports as long as China is not in compliance with WTO obligations. (3) In 2009, President Obama became the first President to provide import relief under section 421. (4) On September 5, 2011, the WTO Appellate Body decided in favor of the United States on all counts in a dispute over U.S. measures to stop a surge in Chinese tires. (5) WTO Appellate Body's Tires decision unequivocally validated section 421 as a legal, effective tool in U.S. trade policy with China. Section 421 expires, however, on December 11, 2013, leaving the United States without a powerful, China-specific trade remedy. (6)

President Obama emphasized the importance of section 421 in his 2012 State of the Union Address, saying that "[o]ver a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires. But we need to do more." (7) President Obama also vowed to expand U.S. capabilities to combat unfair trade by creating a Trade Enforcement Unit and various other measures. (8)

This Note explores both the implications of the Tires decision and how the Tires decision fits into the United States' reinvigorated effort to protect U.

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Section 421: China's WTO Noncompliance and the Protection of U.S. Corporate Interests


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