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Hawley Proposes Withdrawing U.S. from WTO, Says It ‘Enabled the Rise of China’

Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) departs from a briefing on the coronavirus outbreak in China in Washington, D.C., January 24, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) is introducing a bill to remove the United States from the World Trade Organization, saying that the intergovernmental group “enabled the rise of China” at the expense of American industry.

“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed deep, long-standing flaws in our global economic system that demand reform. International organizations like the W.T.O. have enabled the rise of China and benefited elites around the globe while hollowing out American industry, from small towns to once-thriving urban centers,” Hawley said in a statement. “We need to return production to America, secure critical supply chains, and encourage domestic innovation. Pulling out of the W.T.O. is a good first step.”

The six-line resolution Hawley has proposed cites the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) that marked America’s entry into the WTO and contains procedures through which it could leave the group. Under the rules outlined by the URAA, Hawley’s proposal will first head to the Senate Finance Committee, which will have it for a maximum of 45 days before it is scheduled for a floor vote. While a withdrawal from the WTO requires votes from both the House and the Senate, the upper chamber has never voted to withdraw, with the last attempt coming in 2010, when the House defeated the measure 363-56.

Senators Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) — the chairman and ranking member of the Finance Committee, respectively — have both expressed support for the WTO in the past, but wrote in an October op-ed that “we are growing frustrated that the institution is not fully and effectively performing its intended functions.”

In a statement, Grassley pushed back on Hawley’s resolution, saying that “withdrawing from the WTO would only leave a vacuum for China to fill and diminish America’s position of strength.”

“Chairman Grassley agrees with the Trump administration that the World Trade Organization is in need of reform,” the statement reads. “He looks forward to working with President Trump and Ambassador Lighthizer to achieve those reforms so the United States can continue to take a leading role in setting global trade policy.”

Hawley wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday that called for the WTO to be “abolished,” citing the organization’s benefits to China, which he deemed “the single greatest threat to American security in the 21st century.”

“Its mandate was to promote free trade, but the organization instead allowed some nations to maintain trade barriers and protectionist workarounds, like China, while preventing others from defending themselves, like the United States,” Hawley wrote.

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