Trump's been sending signals all week that he plans to either ignore the main principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO) or pull out of the body entirely, with this possible scenario representing an existential threat to the same liberal globalization model that the US created. The WTO was formed after the Old Cold War in 1995 and aimed to standardize international trading rules and dispute resolution processes between countries. As one of the cornerstones of the so-called Washington Consensus, the WTO represented the triumph of the American economic model at that time, but the election of Trump and the implementation of his "America First" policy of semi-protectionism threatens to radically revolutionize everything that the world had hitherto taken for granted in this regard.
Trump's criticism of the WTO is similar to that of other global bodies like the UN in that he believes that it's been hijacked by others to work against American interests, particularly in this context because it's poised to become the legal arena in which the countries affected by the US' new tariffs will make their cases in arguing for compensation. The problem with international structures such as this one is that they lack a credible enforcement mechanism, especially if one of the founders of this institution and its most powerful member hypocritically refuses to respect the same rules that it had originally set. Not only that, but the Trump Administration is also reportedly planning to violate two of the foundational understandings of this organization by wanting to raise tariffs at will and negotiate special tariff rates with specific countries, according to the Axios news outlet.
The crescendo of chatter about Trump's intentions towards the WTO has all the hallmarks of a brewing conflict, one which would exacerbate the Crisis of Liberalism that's engulfed the world ever since Brexit and the American President's election. For all intents and purposes, the world appears to be entering into a new epoch that closely resembles the 19th-century model of multipolarity, albeit with 21st-century complexities. The American-initiated unraveling of the same international standards that the US itself once spread all across the world shows just how radically opposed Trump is to the existing order, which is rapidly taking the global economy past the point of no return.
Joe Quinn, senior editor and political analyst at Sott.net, and David Hungerford, Veteran grassroots activist and self-taught Marxist economist joined our discussion.
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