A draft of a bill from the Trump administration would propose having the US abandon key World Trade Organization principles and offer President Donald Trump significantly more discretion over US trade policy, a White House official has confirmed to CNN.
Trump ordered the draft legislation and was briefed on it in May, Axios first reported, citing sources familiar with the situation, and the report said most officials involved in crafting the proposal believe it is “unrealistic or unworkable.”
The CNN source familiar with the discussions on the proposed legislation described the proposal as “the beginning of a conversation” on trade and not a signal that the United States was prepared to abandon its role in the WTO.
“We face unfair trade barriers,” the official said, adding, “something needs to be done.”
Notably, the official was displeased with the leak of the bill’s text, suggesting it was put out to pressure key figures within the administration who have opposed Trump’s hardline instincts on tariffs.
“The President is a great salesperson,” the source said. “When this is ready to go, he will put his touch on it, message it in its most effective form. Make it his.” Leaking the bill prematurely “robs him of that,” the source said.
A White House spokesperson did not return CNN’s requests for comment on the bill. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told Axios that the leaked draft is not “actual legislation that the administration was preparing to rollout.”
“Principals have not even met to review any text of legislation on reciprocal trade,” Walters told the news site.
The proposal would likely face significant headwinds in Congress, including from Trump’s own party, which has embraced free trade agreements and bristled at the administration’s tariffs on key US trading partners.
The report on the bill draft came days after Axios reported that Trump suggested privately that he wanted to withdraw the US from the WTO.
The leaked proposal, referred to as the “United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act,” would give Trump the authority, based on the administration’s assessment of trading policies between nations, to renegotiate or apply tariffs as he sees fit to push individual countries on trade.
The report notes that the authority the proposal would grant to Trump would essentially mean letting him move away from collective rules underpinning the WTO.
CNN’s Boris Sanchez contributed to this report.