United States Unilateralism and the World Trade Organization

26 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2018

See all articles by Daniel C. K. Chow

Daniel C. K. Chow

Ohio State University College of Law

Date Written: July 9, 2018


The ascendance of Donald J. Trump to the US Presidency coincided with the adoption of an aggressive US trade policy putting “America First” and backed by the use of unilateral trade sanctions by the US in defiance of the World Trade Organization. The basic tenets of US unilateralism, gleaned from legal sources propounded by the current US Administration, consists of three basic tenets: (1) the US will ignore any WTO decision with which it disagrees; (2) the US will unilaterally impose trade sanctions on WTO member nations without first consulting with or fulfilling any of the requirements of the WTO; and (3) the US will follow the law of the WTO or disregard it totally depending on whether it suits US needs, reducing the WTO to a mere instrumentality for US purposes. These positions have alienated US allies and antagonized powerful competitors, such as China, into retaliating on its own unilateral terms. US unilateralism threatens to undermine and reduce the WTO to irrelevance and to bring the world into a dangerous new era of economic nationalism and protectionism that can have catastrophic effects on the world economy.

Keywords: Unilateralism, World Trade Organization, International Trade Law, International Law

JEL Classification: K20, K23, K33

Suggested Citation

Chow, Daniel Chee King, United States Unilateralism and the World Trade Organization (July 9, 2018). Boston University International Law Journal, 2019, Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 449, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3210584 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3210584

Daniel Chee King Chow (Contact Author)

Ohio State University College of Law ( email )

55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States
614 292-0948 (Phone)
614 292-3202 (Fax)

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