Every Econ 101 student is taught that, fundamentally, the origin of the Great Depression, which traces back to 1929, was the loss of the world’s confidence in U.S. leadership of the global economy—especially as the champion of open international trade among nations. Alas, almost 100 years on, Washington is at it again.
It is hardly a secret actions taken by Mr. Trump set a record among previous oval office occupants for protectionist policies (despite his Wharton degree in economics), especially imposing a swath of tariffs on goods the U.S. imports from China. Less well known, however, is several members of Congress are forcefully pushing legislation that, if it were to pass, would have the U.S. withdraw from the world’s trade-enhancing entity the country long ago stewarded precisely to help prevent another Great Depression. (Mr. Trump also has called for such a move on several occasions.)
In fact, one of those members, a Republican freshman senator—Josh Hawley from Missouri—initially proposed in a New York Times op-ed we abolish the organization. That entity is, of course, the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO), today comprised of 164 member states, who comprise 98% of the world’s trade and act by consensus to both set rules for international trade and oversee members’ adherence to them.
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