Trump wants WTO to crack down on China labeling itself ‘developing’ country

President Trump wants the World Trade Organization (WTO) to prevent countries like China from labeling themselves “developing,” arguing that some member nations are abusing that status to operate under more lenient rules.

Trump issued a memo directing U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to use “all available means” to secure changes to WTO policy toward developing countries.

{mosads}Without progress in the next 90 days, the Trump administration said it will unilaterally ignore a country’s “developing status” and reject its membership in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

“The WTO is BROKEN when the world’s RICHEST countries claim to be developing countries to avoid WTO rules and get special treatment. NO more!!!” Trump tweeted after issuing the memo.

Trump’s memo says that seven of the world’s 10 wealthiest economies by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita categorize themselves as “developing” under WTO rules. The label allows less competitive countries more time to open up their economies to global trade and provides certain protections in WTO disputes.

But the president argued that it “has allowed some WTO Members to gain unfair advantages in the international trade arena.”

The memo accused China of inaccurately insisting it is a developing country. It also said Singapore, Mexico, Qatar and South Korea are misusing the term.

“When the wealthiest economies claim developing-country status, they harm not only other developed economies but also economies that truly require special and differential treatment,” Trump said in the memo. “Such disregard for adherence to WTO rules, including the likely disregard of any future rules, cannot continue to go unchecked.”

China ranks second in the world in terms of GDP, but is 108th globally based on GDP per capita, which assesses a country’s wealth relative to its population.

By comparison, Singapore and Qatar rank in the top 10 in GDP per capita, but rank 38th and 53rd, respectively, by overall GDP.

The U.S. ranks No. 1 in overall GDP and 19th on a per capita basis.

Trump has railed against the WTO for much of his presidency, arguing the international trade body perpetuates what he deems unfair trade practices. Last August, he threatened to withdraw from the group.

The president has engaged in a flurry of trade disputes since taking office. The U.S. is currently locked in a tit-for-tat trade war with China, with the two countries imposing hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs on one another.

Trump has previously imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on several allies, and earlier Friday pledged a “substantial” response to France passing a digital services tax that will affect some U.S. tech companies.

Updated at 3:48 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Robert Lighthizer

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