Monday, 30th October 2017

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Trump threatens to pull out of WTO

Agreement to set up organisation was single worst trade deal ever made: President

  • Published 1.09.18
President Trump at a rally in Evansville, Indiana. (AFP)

Washington: President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the World Trade Organisation if it does not "shape up".

His remarks, made in an interview with Bloomberg News on Thursday, were the latest in a series of attacks on institutions of the global order that the US helped to build after World War II.

"If they don't shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO," Trump told the news agency, describing the agreement to set the organisation up as "the single worst trade deal ever made".

Trump, who has previously criticised the WTO's dispute settlement system as being unfavourable to the US, said Washington had "rarely won a lawsuit" there although things began changing last year.

"In the last year, we're starting to win a lot," he said.

"You know why? Because they know if we don't, I'm out of there."

China, which is currently embroiled in a trade war with the US, joined the WTO in 2001 - a move which US trade representative Robert Lighthizer has described as a mistake.

Trump made the threat as Washington presses challenges at the WTO against trading partners that have fought back against tariffs on importers that were imposed by the Trump administration.

On the Russia collusion investigation being headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump has said the probe is "illegal" as it continues to hone in on his inner circle.

Trump said Mueller's appointment last year to investigate his 2016 election campaign for possible collusion with Russia was wrong.

"I view it differently. I view it as an illegal investigation," he told Bloomberg.

He cited unnamed "great scholars" who say that "there never should have been a special counsel," according to the news agency.

Some legal experts have questioned the justice department's naming of Mueller, a former FBI director, to handle the probe in the absence of a specific law governing special prosecutors.

But Trump's own justice department says it is legal.

Earlier this month Andrew Miller, a one-time aide to former Trump political consultant Roger Stone, challenged the legality of Mueller's appointment in appeals court.

Miller is battling a subpoena to testify on Stone in front of a Mueller-commissioned grand jury.

Miller's case, supported by the conservative legal group the National Legal and Policy Center, argues that Mueller's appointment on May 17, 2017, violated the Constitution because it was done by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and not by attorney general Jeff Sessions. In fact, Sessions, who served on Trump's election campaign, had already recused himself from the Russia investigation, leaving Rosenstein empowered to act as the attorney general in the case.

Meanwhile a legal challenge to Mueller's broad mandate to chase down any lead, even if only obliquely related to Russia collusion, has also been rejected in court.

Trump has reportedly rejected as "not good enough" a European Union proposal scrapping tariffs on automobiles, a move which threatens to amplify a simmering trans-Atlantic trade dispute. AFP