House leaders maneuver to prevent vote on WTO withdrawal


By Sabrina Rodríguez and Doug Palmer, POLITICO



With help from Gavin Bade


The House is expected to vote today on a rule that effectively kills chances of a resolution to withdraw from the WTO that was introduced by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.).


The House Rules Committee voted 9-4 Wednesday evening to approve a rule for floor action on a number of pending measures, including the WTO provision.


A spokesperson for DeFazio acknowledged the move derailed chances for a vote on his resolution.


“Rep. DeFazio believes this is a missed opportunity for the House to debate the future of U.S. participation in the WTO, a body which has failed our country and serves the interests of Wall Street and multinational corporations, not the interests of working people,” the spokesperson said.


The details: The rule, which is not open to amendment, would waive Section 125(c) of 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act for the remainder of the current Congress. That effectively strips the expedited procedures guaranteeing any withdrawal resolution will reach the floor. Those procedures include a requirement that any resolution be automatically discharged from the House Ways and Means Committee after 45 days.


If approved, the rule could also kill any possibility of the United States withdrawing from the WTO until at least 2025, since both the House and the Senate would have to approve such a measure for withdrawal to occur. In addition, the URAA only provides the opportunity for a vote on withdrawal once every five years.


WTO CAUGHT BETWEEN THE U.S. AND CHINA ON TARIFFS: The WTO could in a few days hand down a ruling on Trump’s China tariffs that’ll either deepen Trump’s belief that the WTO has an anti-American bias or legitimize the president’s repeated use of unilateral trade actions to resolve disputes.


Timing is unclear: The U.S. and China are expected to receive a final ruling by the end of the month, according to the WTO’s website. But it could take longer for the ruling to be made public because the WTO must first translate it into the three official WTO languages and circulate it to member countries.


Upset Trump or everyone else: The case comes down to whether Trump’s use of Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to slap tariffs on China was a violation of international trade rules.


Ruling against the U.S. — as some trade experts speculate will happen — would give Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) a fresh talking point to push his withdrawal resolution, which still appears headed for a Senate floor in late July. Republicans have become increasingly skeptical of the WTO, as the Trump administration has repeatedly said the Geneva-based organization has failed the U.S. and international trading system.


A ruling upholding Trump’s tariffs would send the message that the use of unilateral trade actions is an acceptable way to solve disputes, rather than using the WTO’s dispute settlement system. China has argued that the U.S. violated WTO dispute settlement procedures by acting unilaterally.


More tariff rulings to come: The WTO’s ruling on Trump’s China tariffs could shed some light on its thinking about cases brought by China, the EU, Russia and others against Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum using Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Those countries have argued Trump’s move was thinly veiled protectionism and not in the name of national security.


The WTO could rule on those cases in the coming months.




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