Trump blasts China & India for ‘taking advantage’ of WTO’s developing nations tag

The World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters are pictured in Geneva, Switzerland. / Reuters

US President Donald Trump has questioned China and India’s developing country status, saying they are “taking advantage” of lenient treatment granted to them under global trade rules.

Trump, addressing a gathering in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, said India and China are too advanced to be considered developing nations and should not be allowed the associated benefits granted to them by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“They [India and China] were taking advantage of us for years and years,” while putting the US at a disadvantage, he said.

We’re not letting that happen anymore… Everybody is growing but us,” Trump complained; he expressed hope that the WTO would treat the US “fairly” in the future.

Trump has criticized India in the past for placing “tremendously high” import tariffs on US products, dubbing the Asian country a “tariff king.” Last year, he openly called on New Delhi to lower tariffs in order to maintain the “privilege” of trading with the US.

As for China, it is currently engaged in an escalating trade war with the US after Trump announced punitive tariffs on Chinese goods, and Beijing retaliated with a ban on US agriculture imports.

Last month, Trump asked the WTO to update its definition of “developing country.” In a memo to Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, Trump wrote that the WTO was based on an “outdated dichotomy” between developing and developed economies and was in “desperate need of reform.” He also empowered Lighthizer to start taking punitive actions if any advanced economies were found to take advantage of the “flexibilities” given by their WTO status.

Chinese state media argued that Trump’s demand was “absurd” and an “old trick” attempting to “cast a shadow over the multilateral trading system and open global economy.”

Such selfishness and self-interest is against the signs of the time, it will certainly be opposed by all parties, and it is impossible that it will succeed,” an op-ed published by state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

The Geneva-based WTO is an intergovernmental organization that governs trade relations between countries worldwide. Developing countries are allowed to operate under different rules than advanced economies in certain areas, according to its guidelines. For instance, they are entitled to softer tariff cuts, longer transition periods, and advantages in the case of disputes as well as other benefits.

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