President Donald Trump's remark about possibly withdrawing the United States from the World Trade Organization is not a new sentiment and not a cause for panic, the WTO director general said, downplaying the line that rocked media headlines.
Setting his sights on a cornerstone of the global trading system, he said: "If they don't shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO".
The agreement establishing the body "was the single worst trade deal ever made", Trump said.
Many countries have complained to WTO about the United States raising import tariffs, including China against which President Trump is reportedly planning to impose $200 billion tariffs on Chinese imports as soon as next week, in addition to billions of tariffs the U.S. has already imposed on China.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said allowing China into the WTO in 2001 was a mistake.
The US last week blocked the reappointment of a judge to the Geneva-based institution, which regulates global trade and helps to resolve disputes between nations.
Lighthizer has said that the WTO dispute settlement system interferes with U.S. sovereignty, particularly on anti-dumping cases.
Trump also said the United States "rarely won a lawsuit except for last year" at the WTO. "And I think what he said yesterday is consistent with what they have expressed before". As for the cases filed against us, ones from China have made recent headlines. In the meantime, the USA has been blocking the appointment of new judges, which could ultimately put the WTO's ability to issue judgments on ice.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr Trump was asked to confirm whether he would move ahead with a plan to impose tariffs on $200bn (£154bn) in Chinese imports next week.
The WTO, which was set up in 1994, is at the heart of the system of rules for global trade.