U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday instructed the U.S. trade representative to take action to ensure certain wealthy economies do not use their status as developing countries to receive special treatment from the World Trade Organization, mentioning South Korea by name.
Trump gave the order in a memo to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, saying the behavior cannot continue to go unchecked and that Lighthizer should "use all available means" to secure changes at the WTO.
Trump said seven out of the 10 wealthiest countries in the world claim developing country status, as well as South Korea, Mexico and Turkey, which are members of the Group of 20 major economies and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, mostly composed of developed nations.
The main target of the memo was China, with which the U.S. has been locked in a bitter trade dispute. Trump said China has the second largest gross domestic product in the world and accounts for nearly 13 percent of total global exports of goods.
"The WTO is BROKEN when the world's RICHEST countries claim to be developing countries to avoid WTO rules and get special treatment. NO more!!!" the president later wrote in a tweet. "Today I directed the U.S. Trade Representative to take action so that countries stop CHEATING the system at the expense of the USA!"
According to the memo, countries that claim developing country status can have longer timeframes for the imposition of safeguards, generous transition periods, softer tariff cuts, procedural advantages for WTO disputes, and the ability to gain certain export subsidies.
Trump said in the memo that he is instructing Lighthizer to pursue ways to stop such countries from benefiting from flexibilities in WTO rules and negotiations without justification.
He also required Lighthizer to update him on any progress within 60 days of the memo, and if the trade representative deems insufficient progress toward the goal within 90 days, that he no longer treat the developing countries as such for the purposes of the WTO, and where relevant, not support such countries' membership in the OECD. (Yonhap)