Trump renews threat to pull US out of WTO

Trump arrives to speak during a visit to the Pennsylvania Shell ethylene cracker plant in Monaca.
Trump arrives to speak during a visit to the Pennsylvania Shell ethylene cracker plant in Monaca.PHOTO: AP

MONACA (Pennsylvania) • President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if conditions are not improved, a signal that more trade-related volatility could be ahead.

"We will leave if we have to," he told a cheering audience of workers at a Shell chemical plant in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

"We know that they have been screwing us for years, and it is not going to happen again," he said.

Mr Trump has made the WTO the target of many previous attacks and threatened before to withdraw, saying that Washington does not have to abide by WTO rulings.

He is especially critical of the terms granted to China when it joined the organisation, given US complaints about Chinese theft of American technology.

China's state media said in a commentary on July 29 that Washington's threat to pull recognition of China's "developing nation" status at the WTO was a pressure tactic, and was bound to fail.

"Developing country" status in the WTO gives governments longer timelines for implementing free trade commitments as well as the ability to protect some domestic industries and maintain subsidies.


The Trump administration has long complained that WTO rules are unfair to the US and has nearly throttled significant WTO proceedings by refusing to name new members of the appellate body for the dispute settlement system, which will cease to function later this year.

Despite Mr Trump's criticisms, Washington has, in fact, won the majority of complaints it has filed with the WTO.

Mr Chad Bown, a trade expert with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the moves weakening the WTO have done "lasting damage", not all of which can be reversed.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2019, with the headline 'Trump renews threat to pull US out of WTO'. Print Edition | Subscribe