In Depth

Donald Trump’s Fart Act explained

Leaked tariff bill draft reportedly suggests that US abandons WTO rules

US President Donald Trump is looking to walk away from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and instead adopt a United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act, or Fart Act, according to media reports. 

The claims have been met with both bewilderment and amusement, but if true, have serious implications.

What does the Act say?

US news website Axios says it has received a leaked early draft of a bill ordered by the president that would see America take what The Guardian calls “the unlikely step” of abandoning WTO rules - and in the process, allow Trump to raise tariffs without the consent of Congress.

The Bill “would be a dramatic shift in trade policy with wide-reaching impacts”, adds the newspaper.

It would give Trump unilateral power to ignore the two most basic principles of the WTO: those of the “Most Favoured Nation” and “bound tariff rates”. The former means that countries can’t set different tariff rates for different countries outside of free trade agreements, while the latter are the ceilings that each WTO country has already agreed to in previous negotiations.

What’s with the name?

“Fabulously, the draft bill is termed the US Fair And Reciprocal Tariff act, which as acronyms go would take some beating,” says Politico’s Jack Blanchard.

Predictably, the name was greeted with glee on Twitter.

Will the Act be passed?

“It is no secret that Potus has had frustrations with the unfair imbalance of tariffs that put the US at a disadvantage,” White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters told Axios.

“He has asked his team to develop ideas to remedy this situation and create incentives for countries to lower their tariffs. The current system gives the US no leverage and other countries no incentive.”

However, the website concludes that there is zero chance of Congress allowing Trump to go ahead with his plan.

“The good news is Congress would never give this authority to the president,” a source told the website, describing the Bill as “insane”.

Another said: “The Trump administration should be more worried about not having their current authority restricted rather than expanding authority as this Bill would do.”

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