Trump could pull US out of WTO under his economic plan

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, Virginia on Sept 24, 2016.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, Virginia on Sept 24, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • Donald Trump would pull the United States out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if necessary to help American companies sell more abroad.

He believes he can close the United States' US$500 billion (S$680 billion) trade deficit within two years by renegotiating trade deals.

And he sees this new approach to trade as the key complement to a bevy of traditional Republican policies - tax cuts, energy drilling and deregulation - that will supercharge the economy, according to a new campaign analysis that lays out the Republican candidate's economic strategy in the most detail yet.

It is an ideologically scattered plan, a tapestry of supply-side conservatism and liberal populism. It promises to free American companies to compete more successfully on the world stage and to force America's top trading partners into submission.

The plan's guiding theory is that the US economy is growing slowly because past US presidents in the globalisation era have not even tried to level the free-trade playing field in America's favour.

A new 30-page analysis of Mr Trump's economic proposals, penned by two of his senior policy advisers and issued on Sunday evening by his campaign, provides the most detailed look yet into how Mr Trump envisions his economic plan boosting growth, wages and wealth - through a series of policies that together defy partisan convention. It demonstrates, in quantifiable terms, that trade policy is as important to Mr Trump's economic promises as tax cuts.

His team contends that he could reduce the "pull" of international trade agreements and unfair trading-partner practices in a year or two by renegotiating trade deals and other steps.

Those include convincing the WTO to change rules which advantage exports from countries that rely heavily on what essentially are national sales taxes, such as Mexico and Germany, at the expense of countries that rely more on income taxes, such as the US.

The analysis says Mr Trump would impose tariffs if necessary against countries that violate trade norms. It raises the possibility of the US pulling out of the WTO in order to force the WTO to change the taxation rule to America's advantage.

Meanwhile on Sunday, dozens of former appointees of the administration of former president George W. Bush announced their support for Mr Trump in a bid for party unity ahead of his first debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The list includes former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and former attorney-general John Ashcroft.

The endorsement came as the Bush family and many connected to it remain cool to Mr Trump. Former president George H.W. Bush reportedly plans to vote for Mrs Clinton, his son and former Trump rival Jeb Bush has said he will not vote for Mrs Clinton or Mr Trump, and Mr George W. Bush has avoided the presidential race.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2016, with the headline 'Trump could pull US out of WTO under his economic plan'. Subscribe