Americans owe the World Trade Organization a big debt of gratitude. Just yesterday, the WTO reminded us of a crucial reason why all Americans with a decent regard for their country’s interests – or just with their heads screwed on tight – should be urging their members of the U.S. House and Senate to yank the nation out pronto, and thereby greatly strengthen its ability to safeguard critical international economic interests.
Not that the trade rule-making and enforcement body is short of critics – especially on the Left. But their claim that the WTO is an instrument used by the world’s corporate elites to shaft the world’s working people in both rich and poor countries alike badly misses the mark. Instead, the WTO is an anti-American kangaroo court. Its overriding mission is keeping the U.S. market much wider open to the rest of the world’s exports than other countries’ markets are open to U.S. exports, and developing countries like China have been among its biggest beneficiaries.
For evidence, you can look at the near-quintupling in America’s global goods trade deficit since the United States officially joined the WTO in 1994. (Happy 20th!) The bulk of that deficit increase, of course, has come in U.S. trade with China and other third world economies.
If you don’t think this debacle stems in large measure from the handcuffs put by the WTO on America’s ability to enforce its trade laws and defend its markets unilaterally, then you must think that (a) the United State has been growing much faster for the last two decades than most of its trade competitors and/or (b) that American industry and agriculture are hopelessly uncompetitive.
As for the new evidence, it came in a Monday Reuters article on two U.S. defeats in the WTO – new decisions holding that Washington overdid it when imposing sanctions on imports that the WTO itself agreed were unfairly traded. In one of the cases, the United States was found guilty of too readily concluding that Chinese “state-owned or partially state-owned enterprises” that were handing out subsidies are “public bodies.” Yep, you read that right.
But the real outrage was the reporter’s observation that the WTO decisions “reflected a widespread concern in the 160-member WTO over what many see as illegal U.S. protection of its own producers.” That is, even though the U.S. trade deficit began rebounding strongly almost the instant the current economic recovery began, the rest of the organization’s countries are determined to nip in the bud any sign that Washington may stop serving as the world’s importer of last resort – i.e., as the world’s trade punching bag.
In fairness, though, the Left isn’t the only political grouping that’s got it wrong about the WTO. The same goes for conservatives who claim to be vigilantly monitoring international organizations for plots they allegedly keep hatching to undermine America’s national sovereignty. These defenders of freedom would be well advised to spend less time decrying the dangerous designs or potential of bodies like the UN, and more worrying about the WTO.
After all, the United States can wield a veto in the UN Security Council as well as in the International Monetary Fund and the IMF. In the WTO, it’s one-country one-vote, which means that the rest of the world can enforce decisions and make policies that can harm the U.S. economy in concrete ways in the here and now.