Trump: WTO treats U.S. ‘very badly’ despite wins
President Donald Trump said the World Trade Organization treats the U.S. unfairly, even though the American government wins most of the cases it initiates with the body.
“WTO’s treated the United States very badly,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday in response to questions about reports he’s considered withdrawing the U.S. from the organization.
“We’re not planning anything now, but if they don’t treat us properly, we will be doing something.” he said.
The U.S. wins 87 percent of the cases it brings to the WTO against other countries and loses 75 percent of the cases other countries bring against Washington, according to a Bloomberg analysis of the 524 cases lodged at the Geneva-based organization since it was founded in 1995. Both figures are better than the average for all nations.
Trump also said that his administration is discussing a trade deal with the European Union, which is planning penalties on U.S. goods in retaliation for Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
“If we do work it out, it’ll be positive and if we don’t it’ll be positive also,” Trump said.
The prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, who was meeting with him, interjected: “No, not positive.”
EU President Jean-Claude Juncker plans to travel to Washington this month to discuss Trump’s trade dispute with his bloc. “Sometimes I’m suspecting the American administration of trying to divide the European Union into different member states,” he said June 29.
Trump’s comments came after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said it’s a “little premature” to discuss withdrawing from the WTO.
The “WTO knows some reforms are needed. So I think there really is a need to update and synchronize its activities and we’ll see where that leads,” Ross said in an interview with CNBC on Monday. “But I think it’s a little premature to talk about simply withdrawing from it.”
Axios reported on Sunday that the White House has drafted a bill that would allow the president to ignore fundamental WTO rules and let him adjust tariff rates for different countries. It linked to a draft of the bill on its website.
The U.S. has already thrown the WTO into turmoil by blocking the appointment of legal experts to the group’s appeals body, the world’s top court for settling trade disputes among nations. The Trump administration has railed against the WTO, complaining it interferes with sovereign trade matters and saying that China has failed to open up its economy as promised when it joined the WTO in 2001.
“We’ve made no secret of our view that there are some reforms needed at the WTO,” said Ross.
The Commerce Department is collecting public feedback for its investigation into whether to place restrictions on auto-imports over national security, said Ross. Commerce will start preparing its recommendations for Trump after written comments from the public, which are due on July 6, and public hearings that are scheduled for July 19-20 in Washington.
The U.S.’s traditional trading partners and America’s top automakers have warned that imposing tariffs of as much as 25 percent could upend supply chains and cost jobs. The auto-import investigation, announced by the Trump administration in late May, was seen in part aimed at prodding Mexico and Canada into agreeing to the U.S. demands over renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
General Motors Co. said Friday that imposing tariffs on imported vehicles and auto parts could lead the company to cut jobs and shrink its presence in its domestic market. BMW AG has also warned about the damaging impact of tariffs.
The European Union sent a memo to the Commerce Department last week, saying that the U.S. investigation “lacks legitimacy, factual basis and violates international trade rules” and imposing restrictive measures could negatively impact gross domestic product in the states by as much as $14 billion.
Commerce has 270 days to hand over its report to the president under Section 232 security probes, like the one for steel and aluminum imports and now autos. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday afternoon that he expected the Commerce Department to complete the investigation “in three or four weeks.”
On steel and aluminum tariffs, Ross said that Commerce was inundated with requests for product exclusions by companies “gaming the system” by applying for as many exemptions as possible. Commerce is now processing the requests more quickly than they’re coming in so the backlog should clear up shortly, said Ross.
The tariffs took effect for most nations in late March. Steel and aluminum imports for Canada, the EU and Mexico were added last month, after they failed to reach a deal to secure permanent exemptions and have all since retaliated with billions of dollars of tariffs on U.S. goods, sending ties between the Trump administration and some of America’s major trade partners to new lows.