World Trade Organisation (WTO)

Twitter gets wind of Donald Trump abandoning WTO rules … and adopting the US Fart Act

Leaked Fart Act draft reportedly suggests US abandons WTO rules

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 July, 2018, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 August, 2018, 4:04pm

US President Donald Trump has ordered the drafting of legislation that would mean abandoning key disciplines agreed at the World Trade Organisation, and instead adopt a United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act, or Fart Act.

Axios reported on Friday that Trump wanted to leave the WTO, a story dismissed by US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as “wrong” and “an exaggeration”.

The website followed up on Sunday by publishing what it said was a draft bill.

The legislation that would be known by its acronym, the Fart Act, was greeted with loud amusement on Twitter.

The act would allow Trump to ignore the WTO’s “most favoured nation” principle, which stops countries trading on different terms with different trading partners unless they have a formal trade agreement, Axios said.

It would also allow “reciprocal tariffs”, so Trump could impose US tariffs on particular goods equal to the tariff charged on US exports of those goods by another country.

The draft bill published by Axios did not mention the WTO, but its report said the law would allow the United States to disregard tariff limits agreed at the WTO since 1995.

Axios quoted a source familiar with the bill as saying the bill was “insane” and Congress would never consent to it.

While the US can exit the WTO, it’s uncertain whether Trump could do so without approval from Congress, where many lawmakers - including Republican proponents of free trade - would likely put up a fight.

Trump was briefed on the draft in late May, Axios said, and most officials thought it was unrealistic or unworkable, apart from Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told Axios that the administration was not preparing to roll out such legislation.

Still, it immediately drew ridicule.

There were debates about whether the name of the act was intentional, while internet users responded with jokes, memes and even poetry.

Don Moynihan, a professor of government at Madison University in Wisconsin, noted that Trump might struggle to get the world to take his policies seriously given the naming snafu.

He wrote on Twitter: “‘The world is laughing at us,’ says Trump, before proposing the FART Act (Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act).”

Journalists delighted in the name, while others suggested it could be a subtle act of rebellion from a disillusioned staff member.

One of the few engaging with the substance of the bill, and not just its packaging, was Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, Trump’s short-lived former director of communications, who said that asking American consumers to pay for tariffs “stinks”.

The Guardian, Reuters, Bloomberg