World The Election Nobody is Talking About: Leading the WTO | Opinion
In 24 hours, Trump went from almost conceding to falsely claiming “I WON THE ELECTION!”
Rejecting reality, Trump tweeted he won the election more than a week after it was declared for Biden.These efforts came to a head late Sunday night with a tweet that read, “I WON THE ELECTION!”
For months, the world's attention has been consumed by the race for the White House. Little attention, however, has been paid to another important international election—that of the next director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the only entity responsible for policing global trade. With the U.S. election in the rear-view, the question remains whether the West can champion meaningful WTO reform to address China's rampant trade violations.
The global trading system has been in a state of paralysis for years. During both of his campaigns, President Trump railed against "calamitous trade deals," claiming that China's entry into the WTO was a mistake that jeopardized millions of jobs. He had reasons for concern. These include China's systematic discrimination against foreign products and producers, including the coercion of foreign firms to hand over intellectual property.
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There were lots of reasons to worry headed into the voting—but on the whole, the system worked surprisingly well.In an interview with The Washington Post, Raffensperger, who is Georgia’s top elections official, said that Graham asked whether he could discard all mail ballots in counties with higher rates of signature mismatch. Raffensperger believed Graham, a close ally of President Donald Trump, wanted him to throw out legal ballots, which Raffensperger can’t do, but which stunned him anyway. (Graham denied that he wanted to toss legal ballots, but acknowledged discussing the law.
Nevertheless, while the U.S. strategy has relied heavily on unilateral tariffs, Beijing has been building bridges around the world. Just last week, China signed onto the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an agreement spanning 15 countries that account for 28 percent of global trade. China's efforts to deepen economic integration with other nations often come at the expense of America's reputation as a global leader.
China's rise has exposed flaws throughout the international system, and the WTO is no exception. The WTO's current dispute settlement system is ill-equipped to address China's predatory economic structure. Similarly, overreach by the WTO's appellate body has emboldened countries to pursue deals through litigation rather than negotiation.
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The hair coloring melting down the sides of his face while he declared long-dead Venezuelan caudillo Hugo Chavez caused President Donald Trump's election defeat made one thing clear -- Rudy Giuliani is no longer "America's Mayor." The effort to reverse Trump's clear election loss appears Giuliani's most Sisyphean challenge.The accolade Giuliani earned for his calm fortitude in leading New York City after the September 11, 2001 attacks has dissolved in a series of increasingly bizarre claims that Democrats, the media, and yes, the late Venezuelan dictator, had robbed Trump of reelection.
Beyond its failure to produce a single round of multinational tariff negotiation since its establishment in 1995, the WTO also mistakenly leaves it to members to self-declare as either "developed" or "developing." China, the second-largest economy in the world, has outlandishly declared itself a "developing" country, enabling it to garner preferential treatment designed for emerging economies. This tactic further strains the WTO's credibility.
Which brings us to the election for the next WTO director general, which is decided not by vote tallies but consensus. Two candidates remain: Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea's Yoo Myung-hee. The Trump administration opposed Okonjo-Iweala's candidacy in favor of Myung-hee, who has a track record of challenging Beijing and negotiating trade deals, something her opponent lacks. Although Okonjo-Iweala enjoys European, Chinese and developing nation support, critics have raised concerns about her objectivity given Nigeria's complicated economic ties with China. These include a number of Chinese loans to build airports and other infrastructure, some of which could fall into Chinese hands should Nigeria default on the loans.
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America doesn't need Saudi Arabia half as much as it used to, and can afford to get much tougher on its ally—and especially on Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the bull in the china shop of the Middle East.And yet there are still other relationships that desperately require a total revaluation or recalibration. U.S.-Saudi relations is the poster child of this group—even more so given the incompetence, petulance, and misjudgment Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has shown ever since he captivated Western commentators with his wide smile and youthful, "can-do" attitude.
Although the director general lacks the authority to unilaterally impose his or her will on member states, this election comes at a critical moment. The organization's very credibility is at stake, and nearly every industrialized country, with the exception of China, is facing strong economic headwinds and an uncertain COVID recovery. The selection of a WTO director general who is perceived, fairly or not, as deferential to China would almost certainly perpetuate the current institutional paralysis and could result in further fracturing of the global trading system.
Conversely, and as more countries come to view China as more foe than friend, the selection of an experienced trade negotiator with credibility in Washington and experience wrangling Beijing could break the current logjam and result in a productive airing of grievances. While the United States and its allies are unlikely to win each and every trade dispute, history shows that China has a fairly consistent track record of complying with WTO rulings. Electing someone genuinely committed to reform and to addressing China's nonmarket practices, like Myung-hee, could therefore be the key to unleashing the world's collective economic engine.
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Language diversity within the AAPI community means misinformation is difficult to track.The most popular YouTube channels flagged on the spreadsheet accumulated hundreds of thousands of subscribers, in which pundits discussed misleading claims about election fraud, Hunter Biden’s relationship with China (a conspiracy disseminated by pro-Trump figures), and the Chinese Communist Party’s meddling in the presidential election. Below some of these clips, YouTube included a label informing viewers that the Associated Press had called the election for Joe Biden. But beyond that small disclaimer, most channels were still monetized and still easily discoverable.
So, what should the incoming administration do?
First, resist the urge to reverse all of Trump's WTO policies. Instead, borrowing an Obama administration phrase, exercise strategic patience and evaluate where such policies provide U.S. officials with negotiating leverage. Specifically, regarding the WTO election, the incoming U.S. team should meet with both candidates to press them on their vision for reform, as well as their views on China's use of illegal subsidies and other tools to distort the trading system.
To convince the U.S., Okonjo-Iweala may want to state more forcefully that trade abusers like China must be held accountable for their transgressions. Any subsequent change in China's support for Okonjo-Iweala would betray Beijing's fears about increased trade scrutiny. If Okonjo-Iweala is no longer considered viable, the U.S. should move to rally support for Myung-hee, which may leave China as the outlier and further expose its unwillingness to negotiate in good faith.
Consistent with the last three U.S. administrations, the incoming team should also refrain from immediately supporting replacements for the WTO's appellate body. Naming replacements without negotiating any concessions would forfeit valuable leverage and diminish the chances of securing meaningful bureaucratic reform. Instead, the U.S. should enter into good-faith negotiations with other members to overhaul the dispute process within a defined period, lest these discussions drag on for years.
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The president spread conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines, mail-in voting, and more.Over the course of 45 rambling minutes, Trump, mired in election denialism, used the platform to promulgate a slew of thoroughly disproven lies, disinformation, and conspiracy theories about nonexistent election fraud, aided and abetted by Bartiromo.
Rather than relying on unilateral tariffs, the U.S. should seek to leverage the WTO's existing system to negotiate new rules that address Chinese violations. The U.S. government's chances of success would improve significantly if it acted together with allies who could serve as co-complainants. Initial disputes could focus on addressing subsidies for state-owned enterprises, as well as forced technology transfer.
Lastly, the U.S. should work with other advanced countries to eliminate preferential treatment for countries falsely masquerading as "developing," while also advocating that WTO members extend unconditional most-favored-nation treatment to each other. Both moves would help level the playing field.
The WTO election may not garner significant public attention, but its rulings impact major swaths of the U.S. economy. The incoming administration would be wise to promote enhanced U.S. leadership at the WTO, albeit with a close eye on China's grand ambitions.
Craig Singleton is a national security expert and former diplomat who currently serves as an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) for its China Program. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.
The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.
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