EU Blasts Trump Trade Policy for ‘Crisis’ at WTO, Risk to Growth

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Marc Vanheukelen, said on Monday that he had hoped Donald Trump’s protectionist promises on the campaign would end before he entered the White House. “Unfortunately,” he said, “rhetoric has turned into reality.”

“The repercussions of tariffs and other restrictions are being felt at the heart of this organization,” Vanheukelen said on Monday at the U.S. trade policy review at the WTO in Geneva. “The multilateral trading system is in a deep crisis and the United States is at its epicenter.”

Vanheukelen’s comments come as the U.S. has triggered a global trade war that’s ensnared adversaries such as China as well as friends like the EU. Since April, the U.S. has announced three rounds of tariffs on as much as $250 billion of imports from China, which has retaliated in kind.

The comments were delivered on the first day of the WTO’s two-day biennial trade policy review of the U.S. The regular transparency exercise focuses on the major trends in U.S. trade between 2015 and 2017 and provides WTO members with the ability to exert peer pressure on future policy.

The U.S. is risking the WTO’s gains by “using tariffs as a central plank of its new trade policy, and in suggesting that trade wars can have winners,” Vanheukelen said.

Vanheukelen criticized the U.S. block on WTO appellate body members and said the EU disagreed with the U.S. claim that the WTO’s “activist judges impose their own policy and institutional preferences on members."

The U.S. is blocking new appointees to the seven-member WTO appellate body, which will be thrown into paralysis in December 2019 because there won’t be enough judges to issue rulings.

Vanheukelen said the EU is “eager to get to the next stage, in which the U.S. can convey its vision for the WTO’s direction of travel, and puts forward concrete proposals for reforming the WTO.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.