1 big thing: Trump vs. the world, again
Internationalists always dreamed of a court with jurisdiction over every country. For 350 years — from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which marked the beginning of the modern system of nation-states — no such court existed.
- Then in 1995, the World Trade Organization was created — allowing the world's nations to press claims against one another for the first time.
- That era lasted just 25 years. As of today, the Trump administration has, for all intents and purposes, brought it to an end, Axios' Felix Salmon reports.
By blocking all new appointments to the WTO's dispute-resolution court, President Trump has allowed it to decline from seven members to three.
- After two more terms expire today, the court will be left with just one remaining judge.
- That's not enough for the court to issue a binding ruling.
- From now on, countries will be able to appeal any ruling they don't like to the WTO's highest court. Since that court will have no power to rule against them, they'll be left free to continue infringing any WTO rule they want.
Between the lines: "America First" implies an expansion of unilateralism at the expense of the kind of multilateralism exemplified by the WTO, which marked a post-Cold War high point of international cooperation.
- The U.S. trade representative's office, part of the White House, referred Axios to a statement yesterday by Dennis Shea, U.S. ambassador to the WTO.
- Shea complains that the WTO court hasn't been abiding by its own rules.
Winners: Donald "Tariff Man" Trump (his words) can now impose whatever tariffs he likes, without fear that the WTO might find them to be illegal.
- Losers: Britain, in particular, stands to be a big loser post-Brexit, since WTO rules are the backstop default option in the event of a "hard Brexit."
Reality check: As Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer tells Axios, "multilateral institutions really resist dismantling."
- When Americans see that other countries — like Germany and Canada — have preferential access to Japan's markets while they don't, they'll demand a leveling of the playing field.