WTO chief asks for support of trading system as protectionism mounts
The head of the World Trade Organisation Roberto Azevedo called for support of the multilateral trading system against protectionism.
Iran Press/Asia: According to the Financial Times, the head of the World Trade Organisation Roberto Azevedo in Bali, called on defenders of the multilateral trading system to “raise their voices” to help it survive as it faces mounting strain from protectionist governments and growing scepticism of the benefits of commerce in public opinion.
Azevedo made the appeal flanked by Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, and Jose Angel Gurria, who leads the OECD – a joint event that highlighted their preoccupation with the regression in trade relations in recent months.
“Let me be clear, the trading system is not perfect, we never said it was. But it represents the best efforts of governments around the world working together for 70 years to find ways to cooperate on trade issues,” Azevedo said.
“It took a lot of people and a lot of time to push the boulder this far up the hill and even keeping it in place requires constant effort,” Azevedo said.
In August, Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, China and South Korea agreed to bolster economic cooperation, voicing opposition to trade protectionism by the United States.
The remarks in Bali, at the IMF and World Bank’s annual meetings, came after the Fund issued a downward revision of its forecast for global growth on the back of the escalating trade tensions between the US and China, which have resulted in a series of tit-for-tat tariffs covering $360bn of products.
The WTO itself has been undermined by criticism from US president Donald Trump, who has threatened to pull out of the Geneva-based trade body unless it is reformed, and has resisted appointing new judges to a key dispute settlement panel.
The EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, warned that the panel was at risk of “collapse”, in an interview with the Financial Times this week.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, had already warned of the danger posed by mounting protectionism, but noted that in some areas there had been progress at easing tensions, including in the recent deal inked by the US with Canada and Mexico.
“Let us use that momentum to turn tension into rapprochement,” Lagarde said. “We know that trade has helped transform our world—by boosting productivity, spreading new technologies, and making products more affordable,” she added.
Washington has complained that China is misappropriating U.S. technology through joint venture rules and other policies, and it has already announced tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, the first of a potential total of $450 billion, as a result.