March 1, 2017 11:00 AM, EST

US Not Bound by WTO Decisions, Trump Warns in New Trade Agenda

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

The U.S. isn’t bound by decisions made at the World Trade Organization, President Donald Trump’s administration said in outlining a new trade agenda that promises to root out unfair practices by foreign countries.

America plans to defend its “national sovereignty over trade policy,” the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in an annual document laying out the president’s trade agenda. Under the terms of its entry into WTO, the U.S. didn’t abandon its trade rights, according to the document, obtained by Bloomberg News and entitled "2017 Trade Policy Agenda."

“Given this history, it is important to recall also that Congress had made clear that Americans are not directly subject to WTO decisions,” according to the trade office, which takes the lead in negotiating trade deals. Trump’s pick to lead the USTR, lawyer Robert Lighthizer, hasn’t yet been confirmed.

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The Trump administration’s skepticism toward WTO, the Geneva-based body that referees trade disputes, signals a new willingness by the world’s biggest economy to pursue its interests — even if it means undermining the global order the U.S. has led since World War II.

The overarching purpose of the administration’s trade policy will be to “expand trade in a way that is freer and fairer for all Americans,” according to the report. “Every action we take with respect to trade will be designed to increase our economic growth, promote job creation in the United States, promote reciprocity with our trading partners, strengthen our manufacturing base and our ability to defend ourselves, and expand our agricultural and services industry exports,” the report said.

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These goals can be better met by focusing on bilateral negotiations than multilateral deals, the government said. Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement with 11 other nations. He has also said the U.S. plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada and level the playing field with China.

The U.S. will work to break down unfair trade barriers in markets that block U.S. exports, while strictly enforcing U.S. trade laws to prevent the U.S. market from being “distorted by dumped and/or subsidized imports that harm domestic industries and workers,” the USTR report said. The U.S. will update existing trade deals as necessary to “reflect changing times and market conditions.”

The contents of the document were earlier reported by the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal.

The Trump administration will also resist efforts by other countries, or international bodies such as WTO, to “advance interpretations that would weaken the rights and benefits” of the U.S. under its trade agreements, the government said.