URGENT NEED TO IMPROVE WTO
Powerful signal to strengthen organisation amid increasing global protectionism
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.
Social organisations protesting in front of the hotel where the G20 ministers meeting is taking place in Mar del Plata, Argentina.