WTO chief: Pro­tec­tion­ism not the an­swer to job losses

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS -

THE HOS­TIL­ITY to­wards trade agree­ments wit­nessed in the United States and other coun­tries is mis­placed and pro­tec­tion­ist measures can hurt the poor­est most, the head of the world’s lead­ing trade body said Mon­day.

World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WTO) chief Roberto Azevedo said the in­tro­duc­tion of new tech­nol­ogy is a much big­ger threat to jobs than trade agree­ments.

“Adopt­ing pro­tec­tion­ist measures would only de­crease the pos­si­bil­i­ties for the poor peo­ple more than any­body else, and that’s just the wrong re­sponse to the sit­u­a­tion to­day,” Azevedo said.

Azevedo de­clined to com­ment specif­i­cally on the US pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. Demo­cratic can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton op­poses an Asia-Pa­cific trade agree­ment, and her Repub­li­can ri­val Don­ald Trump vows to tear up ex­ist­ing trade deals.

“The ma­jor ques­tion is ... is a re­stric­tive trade pol­icy the an­swer to the kind of sen­ti­ments that you see in the elec­torate to­day, and I don’t think it would be,” Azevedo said.

The Geneva-based WTO over­sees and reg­u­lates in­ter­na­tional trade agree­ments.

Azevedo, speak­ing on the side­lines of a tech­nol­ogy con­fer­ence in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, said the WTO will await the out­come of Bri­tain’s ne­go­ti­a­tions to with­draw from the 28na­tion Euro­pean Union be­fore as­sess­ing the new terms of that re­la­tion­ship.

Any rene­go­ti­ated trade terms have to go to the WTO where con­sen­sus is needed for the new ar­range­ment’s ap­proval. That could give eco­nomic ri­vals a chance to de­lay or scup­per any agree­ment.

“It is not sim­ple, so it’s not easy to tell how long it is go­ing to take,” Azevedo said of the WTO’s fu­ture role in Bri­tain’s EU exit. “It can be rather straight­for­ward ... or it could be com­pli­cated.” – AP

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