The Trump administration reportedly drafted a bill to abandon key World Trade Organisation rules

China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. (Fred Dufour / Getty Images)
  • The Trump administration has reportedly drafted a bill that would abandon the US’ commitment to the World Trade Organisation’s rules.
  • Trump has recently been angling to withdraw the US from the WTO altogether – though Congress is unlikely to approve such a measure.
  • Administration officials involved in drafting the legislation told Axios it was “insane.”

The Trump administration has drafted legislation that would empower the president to ignore international trade rules set by the World Trade Organisation, according to a leaked draft of the bill obtained by the news website Axios.

The draft bill, known as the “United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act,” would essentially allow President Donald Trump to unilaterally raise tariffs without Congress’ approval.

The WTO maintains a rules-based system meant to resolve international trade disputes, end unfair trade practices, and head off potential trade wars. But Trump has reportedly said that foreign countries use the organisation to “screw the United States.”

Should the US walk away from the WTO, it would undermine the entire system of trade rules agreed upon by the international community.

One source familiar with the Trump administration’s draft bill told Axios it was “insane.”

“It would be the equivalent of walking away from the WTO and our commitments there without us actually notifying our withdrawal,” the source said. “It’s not implementable at the border … and it would completely remove us from the set of global trade rules.”

According to Axios, Trump was briefed on the draft legislation in late May, and most of the officials who wrote it believe the bill is untenable, unlikely to receive any support in Congress, and essentially “dead on arrival.”

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Waters told Axios that Trump had asked his staff to come up with ways to persuade other countries to lower their tariffs.

“It is no secret that POTUS has had frustrations with the unfair imbalance or tariffs that put the US at a disadvantage,” she said.

Trump has been angling for some time to withdraw the US from the WTO completely, though he would be unable to do so without Congress’ approval.

Read the full text of the draft bill here.

Bob Bryan contributed reporting.

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