WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump offered a veiled threat to the World Trade Organization on Monday, warning during a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte that if the WTO doesn't treat the U.S. "properly, we will be doing something."
Trump again denied plans to withdraw the U.S. from the WTO but told reporters in the Oval Office that the trade organization needed to change its ways. The comments came as he conferred with Rutte on trade and security ahead of next week's NATO summit in Brussels.
The U.S. president has struck back against U.S. allies with tough tariffs and is planning to impose stringent trade penalties on China later this week. Asked if he planned to pull out of the WTO, Trump said the trade organization had treated the U.S. "very badly, and I hope they change their ways." He said he wasn't "planning anything now" but if the WTO doesn't treat the U.S. properly, "we will be doing something."
The Netherlands is part of the European Union, which has been involved in a trade dispute with Trump over the automobile imports. Trump has requested his Commerce Department study whether to impose additional tariffs on cars, trucks and auto parts imported from Europe and other foreign markets, prompting a warning from the EU that such an action could lead to retaliation involving some $300 billion in U.S. goods.
During the meeting with Rutte, Trump said he was "very close" to reaching a number of trade deals, describing them as "fair trade deals for our taxpayers, and for our workers and for our farmers." He said the U.S. would continue meeting with the EU about the trade issue, saying, "If we do work it out, that will be positive, and if we don't, it will be positive also."
Rutte said the talks would focus on jobs and security and told Trump: "Our aim will be to increase those numbers, to be more successful."
Trump and Rutte will both be attending next week's NATO meetings. Trump has advocated for NATO members to boost their defense spending, and his appearance at the defense alliance will be followed by a closely watched summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.