Perhaps more worrying, the U.S. is snubbing the WTO by demanding exclusive purchasing commitments from China in exchange for suspending further tariff increases. The arbiter of global trade frowns on countries offering exclusive market access to one trading partner and not others—outside of a formal free-trade agreement. The “most favoured nation” rule—a foundational principle of the WTO—requires equal treatment of all countries.
“It’s very concerning that this kind of trade deal is being done,” says John Weekes, a former top Canadian trade negotiator and WTO ambassador. “It really undermines the WTO.”