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Top U.S. trade official says WTO must reform outdated playbook

Kitco News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization is using an “out-of-date” playbook despite dramatic changes including the rise of China and the evolution of the internet, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in testimony to Congress on Tuesday.

The remarks by the top U.S. trade negotiator are the first since the Trump administration filed its latest salvo at the WTO earlier this month, saying the United States would not allow the international body to dictate trade policy and defending the U.S. use of tariffs to pressure trade partners, including China.

The “WTO is still largely operating under the same old playbook from the early 1990’s,” Lighthizer said in prepared remarks on Tuesday. “It is now out of date.”

Lighthizer said the United States is nonetheless working “diligently” to negotiate new WTO rules to address these problems.

“We have taken these steps not to hurt the WTO – but to ensure that it remains relevant to a rapidly changing world,” he said.

The United States has argued for years that WTO judges have routinely broken with procedures and exceeded their mandates, imposing new obligations on members.

Reporting by David Lawder in Washington; Writing by Chris Prentice; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao

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