UR­GENT NEED TO IM­PROVE WTO

Pow­er­ful sig­nal to strengthen or­gan­i­sa­tion amid in­creas­ing global pro­tec­tion­ism

New Straits Times - - BUSINESS -

TRADE and in­vest­ment min­is­ters from The Group of Twenty (G20) coun­tries meet­ing in Ar­gentina said in a joint state­ment on Fri­day that there was an “ur­gent need” to im­prove the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WTO).

With United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ready­ing tar­iffs on an­other US$200 bil­lion (RM828 bil­lion) in Chi­nese goods, the min­is­ters said they were “step­ping up the di­a­logue” on in­ter­na­tional trade dis­putes, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment is­sued at the sum­mit.

It did not pro­vide any de­tails of pos­si­ble WTO re­forms or how di­a­logue on trade was be­ing in­creased.

“Ob­vi­ously the new tar­iff mea­sures are not pos­i­tive,” said Ar­gentina’s Pro­duc­tion and Labour Min­is­ter Dante Sica at the end of the one-day meet­ing. “But we need to see how things evolve.”

Ger­many’s Deputy Econ­omy Min­is­ter Oliver Wit­tke said the joint dec­la­ra­tion sent a pow­er­ful sig­nal about the im­por­tance of strength­en­ing WTO “es­pe­cially in times of ‘Amer­ica first’ and in­creas­ing global pro­tec­tion­ism”, with next steps to fol­low when G20 lead­ers meet in Ar­gentina at the end of Novem­ber.

“We have to use this mo­men­tum,” said Wit­tke in a state­ment re­leased by the min­istry.

Out­side the meet­ing, smoke filled the air in the tran­quil sea­side city of Mar Del Plata where the con­fer­ence is be­ing held.

Pro­test­ers burned makeshift Amer­i­can flags and chanted against free trade or­tho­doxy and Trump’s sup­port of Ar­gentina’s cash-strapped Pres­i­dent Mauri­cio Macri, whose fis­cal belt-tight­en­ing has gar­nered a back­lash from the coun­try’s work­ing-class.

“We’re stand­ing here in sol­i­dar­ity with the work­ers of Latin Amer­ica. While politi­cians sleep in fancy beds, com­mu­ni­ties starve be­cause of trade and ad­just­ment poli­cies that hurt the most vul­ner­a­ble,” said a pro­tester.

Ar­gentina holds the G20’s ro­tat­ing pres­i­dency this year and is rene­go­ti­at­ing a US$50 bil­lion stand-by fi­nanc­ing deal with the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund cut­ting its fis­cal deficit tar­gets and re­duc­ing costs to en­sure it can con­tinue pay­ing its in­ter­na­tional debts.

Trump has said he would at­tend the sum­mit’s fi­nal meet­ing with other heads of state in Buenos Aires on Novem­ber 30.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­manded that China cut its US$375 bil­lion trade sur­plus with the US, end poli­cies aimed at ac­quir­ing US tech­nolo­gies and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, and roll back high-tech in­dus­trial sub­si­dies.

While Trump has threat­ened to pull the US from the WTO, China has called for WTO re­form to make the global trade sys­tem fairer and more ef­fec­tive.

EPA PIC

So­cial or­gan­i­sa­tions protest­ing in front of the ho­tel where the G20 min­is­ters meet­ing is tak­ing place in Mar del Plata, Ar­gentina.

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