All Roads to a Better Trade Deal Lead Through the WTO



Phil Levy | Foreign Policy

On Capitol Hill, calls for the United States to drop out of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are getting louder. In early May, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley introduced a joint resolution for WTO withdrawal. This was quickly followed by a similar proposal in the House of Representatives, brought forward by Democrats Peter DeFazio and Frank Pallone Jr. These calls are noteworthy because they signaled some bipartisan congressional alignment on the issue with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has been constant in its criticisms of the global trade body. 

Trump himself has threatened withdrawal on a number of occasions, and his administration has even scuppered the WTO’s ability to resolve trade disputes by refusing to allow the appointment of new judges to its appellate body.

The proposals to withdraw hinge on three crucial questions. Has the WTO failed? Is multilateralism on trade issues dead? And would the United States be better off outside the WTO? To all three questions, the answer is unequivocally no. This is true even—and especially—when factoring in serious trade concerns with China that the WTO framework has not been able to resolve so far.

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