WTO Pro­vides Means to Deal with Trade Con­cerns: Azevedo

Global co­op­er­a­tion and in­creased in­te­gra­tion have proven its worth to many economies

The Economic Times - - Economy: Macro, Micro & More -

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.

REUTERS

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