WHITE HOUSE - President Donald Trump is denying any immediate plan to withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“We have been treated very badly by the WTO,” Trump said to reporters on Air Force One during a short Friday afternoon flight from Maryland to New Jersey.
But asked if he intends to pull the United States from the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations, Trump replied, “Not at this point, but they have to treat us fairly.”
The remarks come as Trump appears increasingly intent on confrontation, rather than cooperation, with the European Union, the Group of Seven (G-7) nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the WTO. He has repeatedly suggested the United States would be better off pursuing trade and strategic deals with nations one on one.
“Rather than playing the U.S. president’s traditional role as leader of the free world, Trump looks like he is declaring war on the international rules-based order: undermining the G-7 and WTO, raising doubts about continued U.S. support for a strong NATO to counter Russia, and falsely declaring that the European Union was invented to take advantage of the United States,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and a former NATO deputy secretary general, tells VOA News.
Trump, in less than two weeks, heads to Europe for the annual NATO summit before separate meetings in Britain with Prime Minister Theresa May and then, in neutral Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin couldn’t have scripted this better himself. And the Helsinki meeting could cement a new partnership between Trump and Putin at our allies’ expense,” adds Vershbow, who also has been a U.S. ambassador to Russia, South Korea and NATO.
Trump, on Friday’s Air Force One flight, said he would raise with Putin the issue of Russian election meddling, as well as differences between Washington and Moscow about Ukraine and Syria.
French President Emmanuel Macron was asked Friday if it was true that Trump had suggested to him that France should leave the EU.
“What was said in the room stays in that room,” replied Macron about his private meeting with the U.S. president at the White House in April.
Trump, at the annual G-7 leaders’ meeting in Canada early this month, clashed with some of Washington’s closest allies and advocated readmitting Russia, which was suspended from the group in 2014 for annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
The president, according to the online Axios news site, said to the other G-7 leaders, “NATO is as bad as NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump wants renegotiated). It’s much too costly for the U.S.”
Asked about NATO on Air Force One, Trump on Friday said Germany, Spain and France have to spend more money on the defense alliance.
“It’s not fair what they’ve done to the United States,” the president said.
Trump, last year, told The New York Times that the United States would only come to the aid of its NATO allies if they “fulfill their obligations to us,” a reference to required spending by members of 2 percent of their gross domestic production on defense, a promise not kept by many NATO states.
Article 5 of the NATO treaty declares that an attack on one member is an attack on all. That is a cornerstone of the 1949 pact, the first peacetime military alliance the United States entered outside the Western Hemisphere.
According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking last week to the Wall Street Journal, Trump is attempting to “reset” the liberal world order, not wreck it.
“The president is committed to both American leadership and American sovereignty. The president is willing to question the usefulness of rules that disadvantage American interests and American workers,” a National Security Council spokesman told VOA News on condition of not being named. “When rules have outlived their usefulness and are no longer fair and equitable, the president is willing to stand up for Americans and advocate for reform.”
The official adds “American leadership means we will continue to meet our global commitments, and in return we expect our allies to shoulder their fair share of our common defense burden and to do more in areas that most affect them. American leadership also means the President can no longer tolerate chronic trade abuses, and the United States will promote free, fair and reciprocal economic relationships.”
That does not reassure globalists, such as former White House and State Department official Harry Blaney.
“The harsh truth today is that there is a wide consensus among foreign affairs experts on all sides of the ideological spectrum of fear and skepticism about the outcome of the NATO and Putin meetings,” Blaney told VOA.
“There is a clear sense of foreboding,” Trump is making an effort to undermine both the defense alliance and the EU, said Blaney, who was a key U.S. official for decades dealing with the EU and NATO.
“The sad fact is that these actions together spell for, not just the developed world, but for the entire global community a period of high risk and uncertainty for its economies, security, and brings a high level of risk for everyone,” Blaney predicted.
“What we don’t have, and everyone is asking, is why is he (Trump) doing this?” Blaney said.