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Donald Trump Says It Might Be Time for the U.S. To Quit the WTO

July 25, 2016, 12:05 PM UTC
Donald Trump Accepts the Republican Presidential Nomination
Photograph by Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Donald Trump upped the ante Sunday in his war on free trade deals—and companies that take jobs overseas. In an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press, the Republican presidential nominee said he would slap steep tariffs on American companies that moved shop to Mexico and suggested that under his watch, the U.S. might just leave the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The billionaire candidate framed his discussion of import tariffs on air conditioner manufacturer Carrier, a regular Trump target. “So Carrier comes in, they announce they’re moving to Mexico, they’re firing all their people in Indiana,” Trump said. “Now they put their product in the United States … there would be a tax to be paid … Could be 25%, could be 35%, could be 15%.”

When told that such tariffs would probably be rejected by the WTO, Trump answered, “It doesn’t matter.”

“Then we’re going to renegotiate or we’re going to pull out,” he said. “These trade deals are a disaster, Chuck. The World Trade Organization is a disaster.”

But wouldn’t such a move rattle the world economy much like Brexit did, Todd asked?

“What did it do? What did it do? The stock market is higher now than when it happened,” Trump replied. “And by the way, I’m the only one of these people at the higher level of the wonderful world of politics that said Brexit is going to happen.”


Trump then went on to explain why Europe’s fractures—Brexit or otherwise—might benefit the U.S.

“Why did [Europe] primarily get together?” he asked. “Europe got together so they could beat the United States when it comes to making money. In other words, on trade.”

Trump’s comments are the latest in a long history of blaming free trade as the cause of much of the unemployment and stagnant wages suffered by the American working class. In a trade-focused speech last month, Trump highlighted the fact that the U.S. economy has lost almost one-third of its manufacturing jobs since 1997. He drew links between this drop and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that President Bill Clinton signed four years before, as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton’s support of China’s entrance into the WTO four years later. For Trump, these two events explain a large part of the economic rise of China, as well as the moribund wages of American workers.

Based in Geneva, the 163-member WTO acts as a kind of global trade referee with the aim of lowering trade barriers, so it’s not hard to see why the multilateral Swiss bureaucracy might not be Trump’s favorite organization.

Fortune has contacted the Trump campaign and will update this story with any comment.