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US presses WTO to stop lenient trade treatment of China

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President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019, as he departs for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and onto Wheeling, W. Va., for a fundraiser. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is pressuring the World Trade Organization to stop letting China and other economies receive lenient treatment under global trade rules by calling themselves "developing" countries.

Trump on Friday directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (LYT'-hy-zur) to "use all available means" to get the WTO to prevent countries from claiming developing country status if their economic strength means they don't need beneficial treatment.

Developing countries, deemed not yet competitive with advanced economies such as the U.S., get more time to open their economies and enjoy procedural advantages in WTO disputes.

Trump said the designation lets powerhouse China and others take "unfair" advantages. If the U.S. decides the WTO has not made "substantial progress' after 90 days, it will seek unilaterally to stop treating those countries as developing economies.