WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS • Mr Donald Trump has warned the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that "we'll be doing something" if the United States is not treated properly, just hours after the European Union said that US automotive tariffs would hurt its own vehicle industry and prompt retaliation.
The US President, speaking to reporters on Monday during a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the White House, said: "The WTO has treated the United States very, very badly and I hope they change their ways."
His comments came after the Axios news website reported that Mr Trump's administration has drafted proposed legislation that would allow him to raise tariffs at will and negotiate special tariff rates with specific countries - two basic violations of WTO rules.
The US has "a big disadvantage with the WTO. And we're not planning anything now, but if they don't treat us properly, we'll be doing something", Mr Trump said, without elaborating.
Last week, a source familiar with Mr Trump's thinking said that he has privately expressed a desire to quit the WTO, but that it was not a serious proposal.
Later on Monday, White House spokesman Sarah Sanders said Mr Trump was focused on fixing problems in global trade, not on leaving the trade organisation that has been a foundation of the post-war global trading system.
"Right now, he'd like to see the system get fixed, and that's what he's focused on doing," Ms Sanders said.
"He's been clear that he has concerns, that there are a number of aspects that he doesn't believe are fair. And China and other countries have used the WTO to their own advantage. We're focused on fixing the system."
During his meeting with Mr Rutte, Mr Trump also said that his administration would be meeting EU officials to "work something out" on trade. The US has imposed tariffs on European steel and aluminium imports and is conducting another national security study that could lead to tariffs on autos and auto parts.
The EU last Friday submitted comments warning the US Commerce Department that US import tariffs on cars and car parts were unjustifiable and would harm America's automotive industry and probably lead to counter-measures by its trading partners on US exports.