Trump tells WTO to stop lenient trade treatment of China

US President Donald Trump said that the WTO ‘is in desperate need of reform.’ (AFP)
Updated 28 July 2019
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Trump tells WTO to stop lenient trade treatment of China

  • Trump said the designation lets powerhouse China and others take “unfair” advantage of trade rules

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump pressed the World Trade Organization to stop letting China and other economies receive lenient treatment under global trade rules by calling themselves “developing” countries.
In a memo, Trump directed US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to “use all available means” to get the WTO to prevent countries from claiming developing country status if their economic strength means they don’t need beneficial treatment.

FASTFACT

Among wealthy countries that claim developing status are Singapore, South Korea, Brunei and Kuwait.

Developing countries, supposedly not yet competitive with advanced economies such as the US, get more time to open their economies, more leeway to subsidize their exports and procedural advantages in WTO disputes. Countries can choose their own status, and other countries can challenge them.
Trump said the designation lets powerhouse China and others take “unfair” advantage of trade rules. If the US decides the WTO has not made “substantial progress’ after 90 days, it will seek unilaterally to stop treating those countries as developing economies.
In a tweet, Trump wrote that the “WTO is BROKEN when the world’s RICHEST countries claim to be developing countries to avoid WTO rules and get special treatment. NO more!!! Today I directed the US Trade Representative to take action so that countries stop CHEATING the system at the expense of the USA!”
Despite claiming developing country status, China is the world’s second-biggest economy and No. 1 exporter. Among wealthy economies that claim developing status are Singapore, South Korea, Brunei, Kuwait and the UAE.
“China and too many other countries have continued to style themselves as developing countries, allowing them to enjoy the benefits that come with that status and seek weaker commitments than those made by other WTO members,” Trump’s memo said, adding that “the status quo cannot continue.”
But former WTO official Jennifer Hillman said that she doubts Trump’s move will make much difference. Most of the more-generous deadlines developing countries got to open their economies have long since passed.
“While there may be a few places in the agreement that still give some small break to developing countries, they are not many,” said Hillman, senior fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations. “The proposal to stop treating countries as developing countries for purposes of the WTO won’t change much.”
The US and China are locked in a trade war over American allegations that Beijing is using predatory practices, including outright cybertheft, to challenge US technological dominance.
The Trump administration has complained that the Geneva-based WTO, which referees trade disputes, is ill-equipped to handle China’s unique economy in which the government plays a major role and boundaries between state-owned and private companies can be blurry. “The WTO is in desperate need of reform,” Trump said.


Lebanon’s Jammal Trust Bank forced to close by US sanctions

Updated 52 min 56 sec ago

Lebanon’s Jammal Trust Bank forced to close by US sanctions

  • Jammal Trust Bank is accused of helping to fund the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon
  • The bank has 25 branches in Lebanon and representative offices in Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Britain

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Jammal Trust Bank has been forced to wind itself down after being hit last month by US sanctions for allegedly helping to fund the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, the bank said on Thursday.
The central bank said the value of the bank’s assets, and its share of the national deposit guarantee body, were “in principle enough to pay all deposits and commitments.”
Jammal Trust Bank denied the US allegations in August after the bank and its subsidiaries were hit with sanctions, accused of helping to fund the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.
“Despite its sound financial situation ... and its full compliance with banking regulations, the (bank) was forced to take the decision to liquidate itself in full coordination with the central bank,” Jammal Trust said in a statement.
The bank has 25 branches in Lebanon and representative offices in Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Britain, its website says.
It is a relatively small lender, with net assets of 1,600 billion Lebanese pounds ($1 billion) at the end of 2017, according to the annual report on the latest year for which data is available.
Washington has sought to choke off Hezbollah’s funding worldwide, with sanctions among a slew of steps against Tehran since US President Donald Trump withdrew last year from a 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran.