File photo of President Trump
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is pursuing a “reset” of the World Trade Organization which he believes has treated American interests unfairly, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday.
In the latest US attack on the global trade referee, Lighthizer said the WTO “has effectively treated one of the world’s freest and most open economies – with an enormous trade deficit – as the world’s greatest trade abuser.”
After paralyzing the WTO’s dispute settlement body to force reforms, Lighthizer said Washington now plans to target tariff policy and special treatment of developing nations.
The US also will pursue a “phase two” deal with China and “rebalance” the relationship with the European Union, where Lighthizer said American businesses operate at a disadvantage, according to his prepared testimony on Trump’s trade agenda to be delivered before House and Senate committees.
Washington will “seek a broader reset at the WTO,” Lighthizer said, where “outdated tariff determinations are locked in place that no longer reflect Members’ policy choices and economic conditions.”
He said the rules mean that “many countries with large and developed economies maintain very high bound tariff rates, far above those levied by the United States.”
“The United States must ensure that tariffs reflect current economic realities to protect our exporters and workers.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday that Trump’s ultimate goal is to reduce tariffs.
“The president has always had the idea that tariffs should be reciprocal. If some country charges us x, we shouldn’t only charge them a fraction of that. His real purpose, though, is to bring them down everywhere,” he said on Fox Business.
“The real problem is getting the other countries to be less protectionist.”
On China, Lighthizer said the next step after the “phase one” deal signed early this year “will focus on issues of overcapacity, subsidization, disciplines on China’s state-owned enterprises, and cyber theft.”
But in addition, Washington “will also seek broader support for our proposals concerning notification enforcement and ‘special and differential treatment’ for developing countries,” he said, a WTO designation that applies to China.
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