US President Donald Trump speaks at a rally. Photo: Reuters
President Donald Trump has repeatedly told top White House officials he wants the United States to withdraw from the World Trade Organization, a move that would be potentially calamitous for global commerce, the news website Axios reported on Friday, citing people involved in the discussions.
One person who has discussed the subject with Trump, according to Axios, said the president frequently told advisers: "I don't know why we're in it. The WTO is designed by the rest of the world to screw the United States."
The 164-member WTO is the only international organization that deals with the rules of trade between countries and states its key purpose as opening trade "for the benefit of all."
A US withdrawal from it would require an act of the US Congress, and Trump was unlikely to persuade lawmakers to carry out his wish, the Axios report said.
"Sources with knowledge of the situation say the Trump administration will continue to call attention to various ways in which the U.S. encounters what some Trump advisers perceive is unfair and unbalanced treatment within framework of the WTO," the report said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last Friday, the United States ramped up its challenge to the WTO, telling the Geneva-based economic organization that appeals rulings in trade disputes could be vetoed if they took longer than the allowed 90 days.
The statement by U.S. Ambassador Dennis Shea threatened to erode a key element of trade enforcement at the 23-year-old WTO: binding dispute settlement, which is widely seen as a major bulwark against protectionism.
It came as Trump, who has railed against the WTO judges in the past, threatened to levy a 20 percent import tax on European Union cars, the latest in an unprecedented campaign of threats and tariffs to punish U.S. trading partners.
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was asked on Friday if the new trade tariffs the United States has imposed or threatened might wipe out gains from major tax cuts passed into law six months ago.
"I can assure you that we are not going to do anything that wipes out all those benefits or does anything that has a significant risk on growth," he told Fox Business Network.