White House lauded US record with WTO, which Trump now calls a 'disaster'

Former US trade rep on Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs
Former US trade rep on Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs

President Donald Trump thinks the World Trade Organization and imports are a huge threat to America.

"The WTO has been a disaster for this country," he said at the White House Thursday, when he unveiled plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. "It has been great for China and terrible for the United States."

But last month the White House put out a paper documenting the United States' winning record before the WTO, an international organization that helps countries settle their trade disputes.

The 562-page "Economic Report of the President," which was released last month, says the United States does better than other countries in cases before the WTO.

"The United States gets better outcomes via formal WTO adjudication than negotiation, increasing the probability that the complaint will be resolved and decreasing the time it takes to remove the barrier in question," said the report, citing academic research done last year.

Related: 'Trade wars are good?' Two words - Great. Depression.

The report also talks a lot about how trade and imports benefit the US economy, despite Trump's frequent criticism. "Historically," it said, "international trade as a whole has on net increased American productivity, standards of living and American economic growth." However it cautions that it "imposed costs on some Americans."

While Trump believes imposing tariffs is crucial to help the American economy, the report suggests the opposite path works better more often than not.

"Historically, the United States has exercised leadership in pursuit of a policy of lowered trade barriers and increased market access," said the report. "The gains from these actions have, as a whole, served to boost income in the US as well as around the world."

White House spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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