World

Will the U.S. Leave the WTO? Donald Trump Says World Trade Organization Needs to 'Shape Up'

President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the World Trade Organization if it doesn’t change its behavior to be more favorable to Washington.

“If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” Trump affirmed Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg News at the White House.

The comments were made one day after the U.S. filed a lawsuit against Russia at the WTO for imposing extra duties on U.S. goods in response to Trump’s tariffs on global steel and aluminum. The White House says that Moscow is violating international trade rules by only imposing duties on U.S. products.

Trump, however, has regularly used international tariffs as a foreign policy tool, and the administration recently determined that aluminum imports constitute a national security threat. The U.S. has hit countries like China, Canada, and Turkey with steep aluminum and steel tariffs.

1025079996-594x594 President Donald Trump speaks at an event at the White House August 29, 2018 in Washington, DC. On Thursday he told Bloomberg he would pull the U.S. out of the World Trade Organization if it doesn't "shape up." Alex Wong/Getty Images

“The Secretary [of Commerce] found and advised me of his opinion that aluminum articles are being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States.  In light of this conclusion, the Secretary recommended action to adjust the imports of aluminum articles so that such imports will not threaten to impair the national security,” reads a statement from the White House released Thursday.

“The Secretary also recommended that I authorize him, in response to specific requests from affected domestic parties, to exclude from any adopted import restrictions those aluminum articles for which the Secretary determines there is a lack of sufficient domestic production capacity of comparable products, or to exclude aluminum articles from such restrictions for specific national security-based considerations,” the statement continues.

Trump has previously claimed that the U.S. "always loses" at the WTO, but some experts said his remarks are wrong. "Washington wins nearly 90 percent of the cases when it challenges other countries’ illegal trade practices. According to the '2018 Economic Report of the President,' that is slightly higher than for other WTO members on average, and it is a far better record than the two-thirds of cases in which China prevails when it complains to the WTO," George Washington University visiting scholar Kimberly Ann Eliott told World Politics Review. 

This is not the first time Trump has contemplated the U.S. withdrawal from the organization. According to a June report from Axios, Trump has repeatedly warned White House officials he wanted to leave the entity, despite the negative repercussions of such move. The news outlet went on to add that Trump once told NBC's Chuck Todd in 2016 that "the World Trade Organization is a disaster." Some of his associates have attempted to convince him that the U.S. performs well if it remains as a member.

With the help of the United States, the WTO was established in 1995 to settle trade disputes while establishing rules to keep trade active across the globe.