In a memo issued on Friday, Trump argued that some countries are abusing the WTO’s lenient rules, unfairly getting preferential treatment.
The memo directed US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to use “all available means” to secure changes to WTO policy toward developing nations.
In the memo, Trump described China, Brunei, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Macao, Qatar, Singapore, the UAE, Mexico, South Korea, and Turkey as rich countries.
“When the wealthiest economies claim developing-country status, they harm not only other developed economies but also economies that truly require special and differential treatment,” he said in the memo. “Such disregard for adherence to WTO rules, including the likely disregard of any future rules, cannot continue to go unchecked.”
Unless changes are made over the next 90 days, the United States will unilaterally ignore a country’s “developing status” and reject its membership in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, read the memo.
In a message on Twitter after issuing the memo, he said that “the WTO is broken.”
Since taking office in 2016, Trump has engaged in a number of trade disputes. Trump initiated what is effectively a trade war with China last year, when he first imposed unusually heavy tariffs on imports from the country. Since then, the two sides have exchanged tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade.
The two countries have already held talks to settle the issues, but all to no avail so far. Their latest round of trade negotiations ended in May without reaching a deal to end their persisting trade dispute.
Trump has also imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on several US allies. On June 10, 2018, he imposed 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imports and 25 percent tariffs on steel imports, which mainly affected the EU, Canada, and Mexico, ending exemptions that had been in place since March.
Trump argued at the time that enormous flows of imports to the US were putting in jeopardy the American national security, and made an odd departure from a decades-long US-led move towards open and free trade.