Democrats and Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee united Tuesday to support the Trump administration’s efforts to force reform at the World Trade Organization by neutering its appellate court.
The resolution passed by the committee has no teeth behind it, but shows rare bipartisan cooperation in Congress during the ongoing impeachment process.
Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the committee, stressed he is a strong supporter of the WTO, but added that “it’s been clear for many years that reform is way overdue to modernize the organization, increase transparency, and address how it has strayed from its mandate, particularly with respect to the appellate body. The United States has been raising these issues through multiple administrations, and far too often other WTO members have been unwilling to address these concerns.”
The Trump administration has been trying to force change at the WTO by blocking the nominations of appellate court judges, bringing the U.S.into conflict with just about every other country in the organization, which governs nearly all international trade. Those efforts culminated this month with the effective shuttering of appeals cases in the WTO when the number of judges dropped to just one. A minimum of three are needed to hear cases.
While the resolution passed with a strong majority, there were a couple of “no” votes. The WTO dispute system has been very good to the U.S., which wins most of its cases, said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.
Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., urged the Trump administration to push for reform at the WTO, but not force a halt to the WTO’s dispute settlement at the same time.
“While I understand the frustration of Democrats and Republicans with the appellate body, I nevertheless think this is a terrible decision," Beyer said.
But they were far outnumbered by lawmakers who see the hardball tactics at the WTO as necessary.
“I am pleased to see the WTO resolution pass through the Ways and Means Committee today, reaffirming our support for the World Trade Organization and the widespread agreement on the need for meaningful reforms,” said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz. “Enforcement of our trade with neighbors is essential to maintaining our positive relationships with key allies, and strengthening our global trading abilities.”
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