The World Trade Organization has appointed the three-person team whose job it will be to determine if the tariffs levied by the US's Trump administration on Chinese goods are flouting its rules.
The WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) announced it would look at the tariffs in January after receiving a complaint from the Chinese delegation back in May 2018.
According to a notice from director-general Roberto Azevêdo, the team will be chaired by Alberto Juan Dumont, the WTO representative for Argentina, assisted by Chile's Álvaro Espinoza and Colombia's Claudia Uribe.
Their task is "to examine, in the light of the relevant provisions of the covered agreements cited by the parties to the dispute, the matter referred to the DSB by China" and "assist the DSB in making the recommendations or in giving the rulings provided for in those agreements".
The Chinese claim (PDF) that Trump's tariffs are inconsistent with the US obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994, an international treaty binding upon all WTO members that actually predates the organisation itself, and its Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) mechanism, which it said should have been used instead.
This is likely to develop into a global conversation: political entities that have reserved their rights to participate in the panel proceedings include the European Union, India, Japan, Russia and Turkey, among others.
The WTO is the largest international economic organisation in the world, and its primary concern is the regulation of trade between its 164 member nations. It typically prohibits discrimination between trading partners, but sometimes makes an exception for matters of environmental protection, national security, and other important goals.
The WTO tussle between the US and China started in August 2017, when the US initiated an investigation under the Trade Act of 1974 concerning alleged practices by China related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation.
The findings of this investigation were then used as a pretext to impose 25 per cent additional tariffs on approximately $34bn of Chinese imports in June 2018, including "information and communication technology" products.
The US has also proposed further 25 per cent tariffs on all Chinese goods that haven't been affected yet – that's some $300bn worth of stuff. ®