WTO Provides Means to Deal with Trade Concerns: Azevedo
Global cooperation and increased integration have proven its worth to many economies
World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general Roberto Azevedo says there is uncertainty amongst many business leaders and governments over the presidential transition in Washington, slow global growth, and events such as Brexit. In an email interview ahead of his two-day visit to India beginning Wednesday, Azevedo told
that the WTO has the means to resolve trade concerns of countries. Edited excerpts:
The global trade order has never looked as uncertain as it does now. What do you make of the protectionist measure being talked about in the US and developments such as Brexit? I certainly detected a lot of uncertainty amongst many business leaders and governments when I was in Davos. Some of this is, of course, related to issues like the transition taking place in Washington along with other major events, such as Brexit, and the fact that global trade growth remains slow. There is no point in talking ourselves into a crisis. WTO rules offer a wide range of tools for countries to address their traderelated concerns.
Is there a threat to globalisation? Do you see countries becoming more inward looking? I think global cooperation and increased integration have proven its worth to many economies and will continue to do so. Nevertheless, it's clear that there is a great deal of concern in many parts of the world about the impact that global interconnection has had on people's lives. We have seen in some advanced countries, for instance, that jobs have been lost and this has created some anxiety. But the truth is that a vast bulk of these job losses come from increased productivity in factories, generated by innovation, automation and new production techniques. These factors have been responsible for up to 80% of job losses in manufacturing, and greater use of technology in the work place will continue. What governments need to do is to find ways to help displaced workers, and prepare students and workers for today's economy and its challenges. Do you see a full scale trade war with measures against imports to revive domestic manufacturing and jobs, as is the case in the US? The multilateral trading system, embodied in the WTO, provides the means to deal with trade concerns. If members operate within the framework of WTO rules, then the system will sort out the differences of views and, as a consequence, any talk of trade wars will become moot. We did not see trade wars or a dramatic increase in protectionism after 2008.
Does WTO, which seemed to be lacking direction, become more relevant with the US pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership? Does that give you opportunity to push the Doha Round? Trade liberalisation at the bilateral or regional level is always welcome and I'm supportive of that. In addition, the WTO is performing well and will continue to do so.
What is the objective of your visit to India? What do you hope to achieve with this visit? India is a vitally important member of the WTO and I try to meet with Indian officials as often as I can. I will be meeting with (commerce) minister (Nirmala) Sitharaman and with business leaders during my visit.
What is the agenda of your meeting with the commerce and industry minister? I would like to hear minister Sitharaman's views and perspectives on any issue she considers of interest. In particular, I'd like to listen to her thoughts on the WTO agenda and the state of play in world trade at present. I'm sure that the expectations for our eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires this December will be a subject for discussion.
What do you hope to achieve from the December ministerial? Many ministers have been explicit in calling for concrete outcomes, but where such outcomes will arise is not yet clear. We will have to see which areas of conversation become ripe for harvest by the time of the ministerial conference. Members will decide that.