‘America First’: WTO faces first attack from US under Trump

China says it supports the organisation after US trade threat


Afp March 03, 2017
US President Donald Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA/ BEIJING: The World Trade Organisation on Thursday became the target of a first concrete attack launched by US President Donald Trump’s administration when Washington declared it was not bound by the body’s rulings.

The US decision is a clear break from precedent and could threaten the viability of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), where major trade conflicts have been adjudicated.

A letter sent from the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to Congress on Wednesday outlining Trump policy reviewed the terms under which the US joined the WTO when it was founded in 1995.

According to the Trump government’s interpretation, “Congress had made clear that Americans are not directly subject to WTO rulings”, said the document.

The text -- entitled ‘The President’s 2017 Trade Policy Agenda’ -- also says Trump’s government ‘will aggressively defend American sovereignty over matters of trade policy’.

WTO director general Roberto Azevedo responded with an olive branch on Thursday, noting it was clear that the United States has a variety of trade concerns, including about the WTO dispute settlement system.

“I am ready to sit down and discuss these concerns and any others with the trade team in the US whenever they are ready to do so.”

China, seeking to position itself as a defender of the international trade system in response to a rising tide of American protectionist sentiment, said Thursday it will continue to support the ‘open and unbiased’ WTO.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2017.

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