Trump threatens to leave WTO after European Union warning on vehicle tariffs

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US President Donald Trump threatened to take action against the World Trade Organization on Monday after media reports said he wanted to withdraw from the global trade regulator. That means any European retaliation over vehicle tariffs introduced by Mr Trump would likely target a bigger sum of American goods exported to Europe than the amount hit by the European measures responding to the metal levies.

A White House spokesperson confirmed that Trump asked his team to work up ideas to "remedy" what he sees as unfair trade laws.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also said that it was "a little premature" to be looking at the United States exit from the WTO, in an interview with CNBC.

Trump was openly critical of the organization on the campaign trail before his election, and has reportedly claimed that foreign countries use the WTO to "screw the United States".

According to Axios, Trump was briefed on the bill in May, but it hasn't yet been reviewed by key economic advisers. Axios reported that "most officials involved in the bill's drafting. think the bill is unrealistic or unworkable".

If passed, it would give the President unilateral power to ignore the two most basic principles of the WTO and negotiate one-to-one with any country: The 'Most Favoured Nation (MFN) principle, and bound tariff rates.

"There is no doubt that we could improve the WTO, but to say that the United States is a "loser" in a world led by this organization is simply inaccurate", Fratto added.

Trump also said United States officials would meet soon with European counterparts to discuss a spate over trade tariffs, saying the European Union wanted to "work something out".

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told Axios that the administration was not preparing to roll out such legislation.

"And we're not planning anything now, but if they don't treat us properly we will be doing something", he said.

EU President Donald Tusk said Europe must be prepared for "worst-case scenarios" in worldwide commerce, echoing an alarm he sounded before a European summit last week.

A trade official says Moscow has initiated a dispute complaint against the US over the 25 per cent tariffs on steel and 10 per cent tariffs on aluminum, by circulating the request Monday among WTO members in Geneva.

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