Trade

Trump Regime Won’t Confirm a WTO Director

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

As you may know, the Trump regime has already crippled the World Trade Organization (WTO) by refusing to consent to the appointment of any new judges to the trade body's appellate court. Appellate judges served fixed terms and after several judges saw their terms expire, Trump's regime refused to confirm their replacements. The appellate court requires at least three judges to issue new decisions and it currently only has one.

But the WTO has other and even bigger positions that need to be filled including the organization's chief director.

The Trump regime is now refusing to confirm a new director supported by virtually everyone else.

Three WTO ambassadors, charged with finding a successor to Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, had decided that Nigerian former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should be the next chief as she had secured wide cross-regional backing. The news confirmed what trade sources earlier told Reuters. [...]

However, the United States then said they did not back Okonjo-Iweala. The decision needs to be approved by consensus, meaning any WTO member could block her appointment.

“One delegation could not support the candidacy of Dr. Ngozi and said they would continue to support South Korean minister Yoo. That delegation was the United States of America,” WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told reporters at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva after the closed-door meeting.

The European Union endorsed Okonjo-Iweala on Oct. 26.

The purpose of refusing to confirm new judges and the purpose of refusing to confirm a universally-approved director is the same. The purpose is to prevent the WTO from actually litigating new cases and possibly (likely) ruling against Trump's regime.

Historically, the WTO has ruled in favor of the United States the overwhelming majority or more than 80 percent of the time, according to a Bloomberg tally, but that was under previous presidential administrations that cared about following rules that we wrote.

Most recently, the WTO reached an initial conclusion that Trump broke the rules we wrote and did not follow proper procedure when he imposed tariffs on Chinese goods. The regime did not make their case to the WTO before imposing tariffs as required under our own agreements. But the WTO cannot make a legal judgement authorizing Chinese retaliation at the moment because Trump has crippled the process.

Voting Trump out of office isn't enough. The next session of Congress should retake control of trade policy from the executive branch even if the executive is a Democrat. It's just a matter of time before another Republican is in the White House and gaps in federal law are far too wide. The president should not be able to unilaterally impose stealth taxes for no substantiated reason or break from our international agreements without consequences. Republicans will regain control of Congress at some point, too, but at least they're more directly accountable to specific interests and constituencies. It's better than exclusively leaving it up to the White House.

Members of Congress have been largely happy to cede control of various things to the executive branch over the past two decades because it frees them from the responsibility and accountability associated with it, but it's long past time to stop. Trump is hard proof that we cannot trust Americans not to elect a madman.

  • muselet

    The *crosses fingers* Biden administration will have one hell of a time convincing multilateral and international organizations the US can still be a reliable partner.

    Yet again, I have to wonder why Donald Trump hates the post-WWII consensus so much.

    –alopecia

    • KanaW

      Probably because he cannot stand the idea of any curbs on his behaviour at all. He wants total autocratic control (without any responsibility, though).

      • muselet

        Certainly that’s part of it.

        I also think the hazy, sepia-toned nostalgia he has for The Good Old Days blinds him to the fact that the US became a global economic superpower largely because of the international alphabet-soup organizations (UN, WTO, WHO, EU, &c) the US pushed to create.

        Maybe if the young Donald Trump had paid more attention in school, we’d have been spared this particular nightmare.

        –alopecia

        • KanaW

          I’m not sure young DT would have been capable of paying attention. But I do agree with you – it’s taken the world to make the US a global economic superpower.