‘Rising restrictions will threaten global economy’

GENEVA: Increasing trade restrictions may become a new normal of global trade in the near future, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo warned while urging strengthening of the existing WTO framework to ensure global growth.

At a press meeting here, Azevedo said a latest WTO report indicates that from last October to this May, trade restriction measures across the globe, including tariff and stricter customs regulation, increased, impacting a total trade volume of about $84.5 billion.

This would threaten global economic recovery and growth as well as job creation, said the WTO chief. He warned that the eye-for-eye approach of trade restriction may become a “new normal” in the near future, and called on all sides to respond and find a solution in an urgent manner.

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Reiterating the vital role of the WTO system in maintaining global growth, he said the body will engage more with leaders of major world economies and provide, if asked, consultations within the WTO framework and rules.

In answering questions concerning the current trade tensions due to US imposition of extra tariffs on imports from Europe, China and other countries, Azevedo said, “Our concern is that this dynamic of an eye for an eye may be perceived of as the new normal and I don’t think it should be the case.”

The WTO chief said it will lead to a drastic decrease in trade and jobs and it will have the worst effect on developing countries which are least able to protect themselves against a trade war.   “The worst-case scenario for the global economy, for the consumer, for everyone on the surface of the earth, is to have no rules, to have the law of the jungle,” said Azevedo.

“Investors will pull back, the economy will lose steam and jobs will be lost. Millions of jobs will be lost … we have to be open-minded and all of us should be looking for ways of strengthening the WTO,” he said.   “All countries have a duty to help,” he noted.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2018.

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