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President Donald Trump at a meeting with Caribbean leaders at Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Fla., March 22, 2019 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

Trump’s Search for Absolute Sovereignty Could Destroy the WTO

Monday, March 25, 2019

The World Trade Organization is in crisis. Member states doubt its capacity to spur economic liberalization, counter China’s market-distorting policies or resolve deepening trade disputes. But the biggest threat it faces comes from its erstwhile champion, the United States. President Donald Trump is determined to weaken, even destroy, the organization. The White House speaks the language of reform, yet its ultimate objective is not to fix it but to nix it. The administration’s antipathy is rooted in the conviction that the WTO violates American sovereignty.

The president has made his instincts clear. “If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” he warned last August. His national security adviser, John Bolton, is no fan, either. Writing in The Wall Street Journal in March 2017, a year before joining the administration, he recommended that Trump simply ignore any adverse judgments by the WTO’s dispute resolution mechanism. The United States may soon face that prospect, having clearly violated WTO rules by slapping trading partners with steel and aluminum tariffs on specious “national security” grounds. ...

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