The Trump administration has drafted legislation that would allow the U.S. to ditch World Trade Organization rules and give President Donald Trump tighter control over U.S. trade policy, according to Axios, which published the leaked draft.
The proposed “United States Fair and Reciprocal Trade Act” would give the president unilateral power to renegotiate with individual countries or apply tariffs, bypassing international WTO rules for collective negotiation.
The leaked draft emerged a few days after Axios reported that Trump has repeatedly told White House officials that he wants to withdraw the U.S. from the WTO. “The WTO is designed by the rest of the world to screw the United States,” Axios’s source quoted Trump as saying.
The proposed legislation is far from a done deal, according to other media reports and the White House itself. A CNN source said the draft is just the “beginning of a conversation” on trade. Axios reported that “most officials involved in the bill’s drafting ... think the bill is unrealistic or unworkable.”
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told Axios that Trump has asked for ideas on how to address “the unfair imbalance of tariffs that put the U.S. at a disadvantage.” She said the main people involved haven’t yet met to review the draft legislation.
“The only way this would be news is if this were actual legislation that the administration was preparing to rollout, but it’s not,” Walters told the publication.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it’s “not accurate that the U.S. is leaving the WTO,” telling reporters at a press briefing that Trump “would like to see an overall more fair trading system.”
The rhetoric surrounding Trump’s trade war has escalated recently, with American businesses, including motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson, shifting some production overseas due to retaliatory tariffs by the European Union. General Motors recently told Trump’s Commerce Department that the president’s threatened tariffs on imported cars and parts could backfire with “less investment, fewer jobs and lower wages” for its American workers.
This article has been updated to include comments from Sarah Huckabee Sanders.