The Director-General said:
“Members are well aware of the growing crisis in global trade. Tensions are growing. New measures are being announced with increasing frequency. There is real and justified concern about the escalation we are seeing. Whether or not you call it a trade war, certainly the first shots have been fired. Continued escalation would risk a major economic impact, which would pose a serious threat to jobs, growth and recovery in all countries. There is also a potential systemic impact, which poses a greater threat in the longer term, particularly if countries begin to accept this tit-for-tat dynamic as the new normal.
“The situation requires an urgent response. We have a duty to help resolve these issues, and to alert people to the potential risks and consequences. That is what I have been working to do. I have been consulting with members on these issues, and I have been meeting with leaders and ministers – urging dialogue and exploring steps to resolve the current situation. But I have also been talking to a wider range of contacts – such as parliaments, business, think tanks and the media – in order to increase awareness and understanding of what is at stake. Trade touches all of our lives. So, I am calling on everyone who believes in trade as a force for good to speak up. Now is the time.
“In some ways I actually think we may be seeing some progress. Leaders are increasingly aware and engaged in WTO issues – in a way that I haven’t seen before. There is renewed engagement from many members on systemic issues, bringing more focus on the WTO and how it can be improved. I think that this could be positive – and could potentially help us to find a path out of the current crisis.”
The Director-General also addressed the impasse in appointments to the Appellate Body, stressing the gravity of the situation and the need for members to engage with renewed urgency.