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Trump admin calls for reform of World Trade Organization

World Trade Organization logo. Photo: THOMAS COEX / Staff/Getty Images

The Trump administration issued a memo Friday directing the U.S. trade representative to seek to change the way the World Trade Organization treats some foreign competitors of the U.S.

What they're saying: The action would target countries including China, Singapore, Korea, Mexico, Qatar and Turkey that self-declare as developing countries in order to claim special and differential treatment in WTO negotiations, a source familiar with the planning said.

"The memo directs us to devote resources to changing this so that advanced, wealthy or influential countries can not avail themselves of unwarranted benefits despite abundant evidence of economic strength," the source added.

Why it matters: President Trump has long been frustrated with the WTO and has, at times, privately called for it to be abolished. But this action will likely be a relief to free trade advocates who have worried about the president taking more drastic action.

The directive is in line with a U.S. proposal tabled at the WTO in February, the source said.