Can/Will President Sanders Withdraw the U.S. from the WTO?

by Julian Ku

It’s been a rough U.S. presidential campaign season for free traders.  Very few of the candidates are willing to voice broad support for free trade and free trade agreements.  Populist candidates like Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have made some pretty ugly noises about either violating or withdrawing from existing trade agreements.

Although Donald Trump’s proposal for 45% tariffs on China would violate WTO obligations (as Roger detailed here), it is Senator Bernie Sanders who might be more radical on free trade.  Although he doesn’t mention it much on the campaign trail, Senators Sanders (as a congressman) has introduced bills in Congress that would have withdrawn the U.S. from the World Trade Organization.

Today, Congressman Bernie Sanders will urge his colleagues in the U.S. House to support a plan to have the United States withdraw from the World Trade Organization.

Sanders acknowledges that the proposal probably won’t pass, but he hopes it will stimulate debate over the nation’s growing trade deficit.

Here a youtube video of his speech defending his proposed bill to withdraw the U.S. from the WTO.

What is interesting is that if elected President, Sanders could probably unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from the WTO with six months notice pursuant to Article XV of the Agreement Establishing the WTO (An earlier version of this post erroneously referred to Article XXXI of the WTO Agreement, which is really the 1947 GATT Agreement. Thanks to the commenter below for the correction).  I think that a President has broad delegated authority to terminate such agreements, although as I noted back in 2008, it is a bit uncertain whether Congress must also approve.    Still, given that the president arguably has such powers, shouldn’t someone ask Senator Sanders whether he still wants to withdraw the U.S. from the WTO, and if so, would he promise to do so if elected?  I have a feeling he has backed off this position (hopefully!), but it is certainly worth asking!

5 Responses

  1. The link you have is to Article XXXI of the GATT, which only deals with withdrawal from the GATT and is completely irrelevant now. The operative provision is Article XV of the WTO Agreement, which provides for unilateral withdrawal from the WTO Agreement and its multilateral trade agreements on six months’ notice.

  2. Response…If the President can terminate a treaty (which seems to be the majority view), the President should be able to withdraw without consent from the Senate.

  3. It seems that the statement of withdrawal only serves to attract votes from those workers who suffered from free trade. Once elected, those interest groups in high tech industries will have much more weight on presidents decision. Those high-tech industries are benefited from world trade. They are highly concentrated group, thus having few voting weight, but more lobby resources.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. online gambling advantages

    Opinio Juris » Blog Archive Can/Will President Sanders Withdraw the U.S. from the WTO? – Opinio Juris

  2. commercial Weed trimmer

    Opinio Juris » Blog Archive Can/Will President Sanders Withdraw the U.S. from the WTO? – Opinio Juris