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At midnight on Tuesday, the Trump administration will get its wish, nullifying the power of the World Trade Organization, as the U.S. has blocked new appointments to the appellate body and the terms of two of the last three judges on the WTO’s appellate body will expire.
The U.S. first started blocking appointments under former President George W. Bush; that policy continued under former President Barack Obama and will reach fruition under President Trump. As TIME magazine reported of two of the seven judges leaving the WTO, “Their departure will deprive the de facto Supreme Court of world trade of its ability to issue rulings.”
U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, (D-FL) complained, “We are in a crisis moment for our global trading system. As of tomorrow, the court will cease to exist.’’ She said that the non-functioning of the appellate court is “really dangerous for American businesses.’’ Bernard Hoekman, an economist at the European University Institute, echoed, “Where the United States is completely alone is the approach they’ve taken, (which) is to say: ‘We’re just going to blow this thing up.” He Weiwen, a senior fellow at the Centre for China and Globalization, panicked, “The most urgent issue is the survival of the WTO in this turbulent time. I don’t say that the WTO will die, but what kind of survival, what kind of existence, what kind of role it will continue to play?” as the South China Morning Post reported.
National Review wrote in July 2018:
President Trump recently ordered a bill drafted that withdraws the U.S. from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and grants him unilateral authority to raise tariffs on any country, to any degree. The bill, obtained by Axios, would have the U.S. abandon the WTO’s “Most Favored Nation” principle, which holds that no member can establish different tariff rates for different countries, outside of free trade negotiations. It also disregards the commitment to remaining within pre-negotiated tariff ceilings, known as “bound tariff rates.”
White House spokesman Lindsey Walters said at the time, “It is no secret that POTUS has had frustrations with the unfair imbalance of tariffs that put the U.S. at a disadvantage. He has asked his team to develop ideas to remedy this situation and create incentives for countries to lower their tariffs. The current system gives the U.S. no leverage and other countries no incentive.” She added, “The only way this would be news is if this were actual legislation that the administration was preparing to rollout, but it’s not. Principals have not even met to review any text of legislation on reciprocal trade.”
In July, as Politico reported, President Trump issued a memorandum accusing China, among other nations, of taking advantage of developing-country status at the WTO. He tweeted, “The WTO is BROKEN when the world’s RICHEST countries claim to be developing countries to avoid WTO rules and get special treatment. NO more!!! Today I directed the U.S. Trade Representative to take action so that countries stop CHEATING the system at the expense of the USA!”
The WTO is BROKEN when the world’s RICHEST countries claim to be developing countries to avoid WTO rules and get special treatment. NO more!!! Today I directed the U.S. Trade Representative to take action so that countries stop CHEATING the system at the expense of the USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2019