Background

A former U.S. trade representative and a current senator are urging the Trump administration to add another weapon to its offensive against allegations of unfair trade policies on the part of China: renegotiating the terms of China’s membership in the World Trade Organization.

Former USTR Charlene Barshefsky helped negotiate China’s accession to the WTO during the Clinton administration. A Fox Business article reports that during an event in Japan this week Barshefsky “accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of accelerating reversals” in the trade liberalization measures China has pursued to meet its WTO obligations, highlighting “mercantilist” policies that seek to replace U.S. goods and services with Chinese versions. In response, the article states, she called on the Trump administration to “renegotiate the trade relationship with China, or to go around China by resurrecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership” that Trump withdrew the U.S. from in January.

Separately, in a May 16 letter detailing additional suggestions for items to include in the administration’s 100-day trade plan with China, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the U.S. should seek to negotiate new and updated WTO obligations for China in areas such as state-owned and state-controlled enterprises, subsidies, and transparency. Brown cited USTR’s determination that China “has never fully complied with all of its WTO obligations since joining the body in 2001” and noted that additional problems in the bilateral trade relationship have arisen since that time.

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