GENEVA, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- The global threat of protectionism remains, but it is not "hard-core," Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Roberto Azevedo said Monday.
Azevedo was speaking at a press conference held at the UN in Geneva focusing on the Road to Buenos Aires, the 11th WTO ministerial conference which will take place on Dec. 10-13 in the Argentine capital.
"The conference is happening at a particularly difficult moment in time," the WTO chief noted, "The threat of protectionism remains but hard-core protectionism is not there."
Still, feelings of disconnection in the world did not make matters easier in helping global integration, he said.
"While the economic scenario is not bright, it could be worse and without the WTO it would be worse. Without the WTO, unilateral actions would proliferate," Azevedo noted.
He said that since the economic crisis of 2008, global trade has been affected by restrictions of less than 5 percent.
"The risk exists, but so far the system has held firm and trade has been flowing and we credit that to the WTO," said Azevedo, adding that this was a big contrast with the 1930s when two thirds of global trade disappeared.
He credited it to the benchmarks created by the WTO.
Azevedo mentioned WTO success with the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) that provided a boost to international commerce by cutting out choking regulations and came into force in 2017.
Azevedo noted that the WTO achieved successes in the way it operates after the previous two ministerial conference in Bali and Nairobi, but said that before the Buenos Aires conference, there had been no major convergences.
He said that whatever happens in the Buenos Aires conference, it "is not not the end of the road" and that it will be one more step in "trade liberalization and multilateral disciplines."
Asked about criticism of the WTO that has come from the United States, Azevedo said that the U.S. side has "made quite it clear it has misgivings" about what the multilateral system is delivering, but he said other countries have different opinions.
"The United States is less active than it was before, but it is sitting down and talking to members; we have to see in Buenos Aires," he said.