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Trump’s WTO threats matter – especially to a post-Brexit Britain (The Guardian)

President Trump with the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty
The World Trade Organisation is already hurtling towards a crisis, with the US having blocked new appeal judges.

The World Trade Organisation is hurtling towards crisis. Set up more than two decades ago to break down protectionist barriers and to ensure countries play by the rules of international commerce, the WTO is firmly in Donald Trump’s isolationist sights.

Up to now, the White House has been waging war by stealth. Trump has garnered the big headlines for his broadsides against China, the European Union, and Canada, while at the same time conducting a quiet war against the WTO.

But now the president has aired his discontent publicly, warning that the US will pull out of the WTO unless it treats America better. “If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” Trump said in an interview with Bloomberg.

This matters to every one of the WTO’s 164 members, but it matters especially to Britain, which has said it would be prepared to trade with other EU countries on WTO rules if it proves impossible to negotiate a bespoke Brexit deal. In fact, in little more than a year’s time, the WTO could become ineffective, opening the way for a trade free-for-all in which countries can engage in unfair trade without any legal restraints.

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