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U.S. Effort To Shut Down WTO on Display at WTO Ministerial in U.A.E.

Politico reports on the World Trade Organization’s 13th Ministerial Conference, taking place this week in the United Arab Emirates, as an event which could “further erode the Geneva-based organization’s ability to create new global trade rules,” while reporting on Donald Trump’s past (and future) efforts to weaken or destroy the organization.

Politico explains the U.S posture as part of an anti-China policy: “The United States, one of the main architects of the WTO system last century, increasingly questions the organization’s underlying structure. Two decades after shepherding China into the WTO, U.S. leaders of both parties accuse the organization of doing little to bring Beijing’s economic system in line with fair and open global trade.” They quote U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who released an annual 2023 Report to Congress on China’s WTO Compliance on Feb. 23: “China still embraces a state-directed, non-market approach to the economy and trade,” despite being a WTO member for 22 years.

Trump, they report, “is now threatening to impose an additional 10% tariff on all other countries if he retakes the White House, a move that would violate WTO rules and likely spark retaliation. He’s also pledged to revoke ‘permanent normal trade relations’ with China, setting the stage for additional tariffs on top of those he imposed on more than $300 billion worth of Chinese goods in 2018 and 2019.” Trump also refused to appoint new judges to the Appellate Body, a crucial function of the WTO that resolves disputes among members. Presently the Body has ceased functioning.

China’s Commerce Ministry yesterday countered the U.S. policy, stating: “China firmly safeguards the multilateral trading system and attaches great importance to the work of the WTO,” while slamming the U.S. for violating WTO rules and engaging in unilateral trade bullying, which seriously undermines the global trade order and hurts the common interests of WTO members.

WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian-American economist, threatened to resign if the organization is left “moribund.” At the WTO meeting, Chinese Commerce Secretary Wang Wentao and Okonjo-Iweala attended the China Round Table on WTO accessions, which aims to help developing-country members, especially the least-developed countries, better integrate themselves into the multilateral trading system. Ms. Owonjo-Iweala said: “Many thanks to China for supporting this sharing of experiences and learning for newly acceding members like Comoros and Timor Leste and the 22 countries in the accession pipeline—of which one-third are Arab countries.”