August 30, 2018 6:15 PM, EDT

Trump Threatens to Pull US out of WTO if It Doesn’t ‘Shape Up’

Robert Lighthizer, President TrumpRobert Lighthizer, President Trump in January. (Mike Theiler/Bloomberg News)

President Donald Trump said he would pull out of the World Trade Organization if it doesn’t treat the United States better, continuing his criticism of a cornerstone of the international trading system.

“If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” Trump said Aug. 30 in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg News.

A U.S. withdrawal from the WTO potentially would be far more significant for the global economy than even Trump’s growing trade war with China, undermining the post-World War II system that the United States helped build.

Trump said last month that the United States is at a big disadvantage from being treated “very badly” by WTO for many years and that the Geneva-based body needs to “change their ways.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said allowing China into the WTO in 2001 was a mistake. He has long called for the United States to take a more aggressive approach to WTO, arguing that it was incapable of dealing with a nonmarket economy such as China.

Lighthizer has accused WTO dispute-settlement system of interfering with U.S. sovereignty, particularly on anti-dumping cases. The United States has been blocking the appointment of judges to WTO’s appeals body, raising the possibility that it could cease to function in the coming years.

Since World War II, successive U.S. presidents have led efforts to establish and strengthen global trading rules, arguing that they would bring stability to the global economy.

WTO was created in 1994 as part of a U.S.-led effort by major economies to create a forum for resolving trade disputes.

— With assistance by Sarah McGregor and Shawn Donnan