Jul 1, 2018

The big picture: Trump's war on globalism

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

This leaked WTO bill is part of a much larger story, Trump's war on multilateral, global institutions and agreements. Some of these, like the World Trade Organization, form the core of the post-World War Two international order.

The big picture: Trump has expressed skepticism, and in some cases outright hostility towards NATO, the European Union, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the Group of Seven (G7). He's already withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Iran deal, announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, and has seriously contemplated terminating NAFTA.

  • On Friday, we broke the news that Trump has been repeatedly telling his advisers that he wants to withdraw the U.S. from the WTO. His advisers have taken this as him "venting" and haven't put in place a policy process to deal with the suggestion, but Trump keeps returning to it.
  • Trump denied the Axios story, but he has told aides so many times privately that he thinks the WTO is terribly unfair and wants to withdraw the U.S. from the organization, that a phone call to anyone involved in the White House trade conversations over the past year would confirm our reporting.

Between the lines: Michael Wessel, a China hawk who's worked on trade for more than 30 years, channels the Trump-Navarro thinking behind getting aggressive with the WTO.

  • "These trade problems are growing in scope and impact, with no resolution in sight," Wessel told me.
  • "What they’ve [the Trump administration] been doing isn’t pretty, it’s aggressive, but nothing else has gotten the attention of our trading partners who have largely refused to respond to U.S. complaints for years."

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