Trade tensions may rise on protectionism: WTO chief

Trade tensions may rise on protectionism: WTO chief

19 Mar, 2018 An informal World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting began on Monday, in New Delhi.

The US has raised concerns about the functioning of the World Trade Organisation and asked for reforms, WTO director general Roberto Azevedo said on Monday, as global trade tensions increased. They insisted on preserving the binding dispute settlement body system for global trade disputes, emphasizing that they will oppose any attempt to go back to the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) 1947 system, under which the loser had to agree before a ruling could be adopted. "We have the dispute settlement system compromised by a blockage in the appointment of appellate members and this will be the focus of conversations in New Delhi", Azevedo said.

Mr. Azevedo added that the trade environment globally was very risky at the moment and that the WTO was facing challenges from both within and outside.

The WTO DG expressed concern over the disruption of appointments at the dispute settlement body (DSB) of the WTO.

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"At the same time, the US has been saying that they have some concerns with the way the WTO functions", Mr. Azevedo added. The statement by India's Ministry of Commerce & Industry comes against the backdrop of trade measures taken by US President Donald Trump against India and China last week. We have very significant challenges before us.

Although the meeting does not have a fixed agenda, it assumes significance against the backdrop of the increase in duties on steel and aluminium by the U.S., and Washington dragging India to the WTO against its export incentive programmes.

Azevêdo said the ministerial meeting will be useful for carrying forward the mandate of the multilateral trade body. The US has demanded reform in the functioning of the WTO to meet the changed circumstances. Dennis Shea, Deputy United States Trade Representative, is attending the New Delhi meeting.

On 8 March, Azevedo and the chair of the General Council, ambassador Junichi Ihara, held a closed-door green room meeting with some 20 countries to discuss the impasse at the dispute settlement body, as the United States has repeatedly blocked an expeditious selection process to fill three vacancies at the highest adjudication entity for trade disputes, the Appellate Body.

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