Marie de Vergès, “Le gendarme OMC au bord de la paralysie,” Le Monde, le 29 septembre, 2018.
Donald Trump’s attack on the rule of law is manifested not only by his and his Republican Party’s attempt to jam through the Senate confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh—opposing FBI investigation of outstanding sexual assault allegations until forced to allow the investigation by Jeff Flake and other Reublicans whose votes are needed for confirmaton—but also by attacking and seeking to destroy the dispute reolution mechanisms and institutions of the World Trade Organization.
The method: Blocking the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s highest judicial panel.
In doing so, Trump is following the authoritarian’s playbook:
1) gain control of the media;
2) gain control of the armed forces;
3) gain control of or neutralize the legislature (Congress); and
4) gain control of the courts.
The goal is to eliminate any constraint imposed on the authoritarian’s freedom of achion imposed by public opinion (and Congress), law, or the courts.
Trump seeks control of the U.S. Supreme Court by appointing Republican political operatives
like Kavanaugh to the Court.
He seeks to violate international law with impunity by neutralizing international courts and tribunals
like the International Criminal Court (ICC), or the WTO’s highest tribunal.
Trump’s unilateral imposition of tariffs in violation of the GATT and WTO agreements is based on the flagrantly spurious ground that it is required by national security.
This is a bad-faith legal argument virtually certain to be struck down by the WTO’s highest judicial body.
Trump’s ploy is to incapacitate or destroy that judicial body.
If Trump’s national security justification is allowed to stand, moreover, it will effectively destroy the WTO, as any state could ignore WTO rules with a similar spurious justification—with no judicial body in place to adjudicate the argument.
Trump wants the U.S. to be able to throw its weight around and impose its will on smaller and weaker states.
Ia a word, he wants to take down the international legal order that imposes constraints on his freedom of action.
Similarly, with judges like Brett Kavanaugh he wants to neutralize the Supreme Court’s anility to impose constraints on his executive power and freedom of action.
The greatest obstacle to Trump, or any other would-be authoritarian, is the rule of law.
Trump seeks to take down the rule of law, both internationally and domestically.
Citizens and foreign nations need to pay close attention to Trump’s agenda, and to react forcefully to defend their values and the vision of the world they wish to secure.
The Trenchant Observer