Interview: WTO faces unprecedented challenges from trade tensions -- WTO official

Source: Xinhua| 2018-07-14 18:03:32|Editor: Liu
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GENEVA, July 13 (Xinhua) -- A senior World Trade Organization (WTO) official has said the global trade body is facing unprecedented challenges from trade tensions, but it was created for moments like this.

"At the moment world trade continues to grow at a healthy clip and we still forecast trade expansion of around 4 percent this year. But clearly as more and more layers of trade restrictive measures are applied, there will be an impact on trade growth and on the overall economy," WTO Director for Information and External Relations and spokesperson Keith Rockwell told Xinhua Friday in a written interview.

"Companies are withholding job creating investment and reconsidering production and sourcing options. Business hates uncertainty and these are without doubt uncertain times," he said.

The WTO official said, "I cannot recall a time where trade tensions were running as high as this."

Recently, trade tensions heightened after the United States imposed high tariffs on imported steel and aluminum products as well as Chinese goods, drawing strong opposition from its domestic business community and retaliatory measures from U.S. trading partners.

Rockwell stressed the WTO's role at such moments.

"The multilateral trading system was created specifically for moments like this," he said.

"In fact, the only way that this situation can be resolved to the satisfaction of all is through discussion and eventual agreement in the WTO," said Rockwell.

"Those that laid the groundwork for what is today the WTO, had witnessed firsthand the destruction that comes from trade wars," he said.

The WTO official blamed the existing trade tensions on the global economic crisis a decade ago rather than on an industrial evolution.

"Production and sourcing patterns have changed as global supply chains have become the norm in many industries. But the roots of the current strain date back a decade to the global economic crisis, which led to a sharp spike in unemployment in many countries around the world," he said.

In his opinion, the unemployment situation created great anxiety and led some people to regard import resulting from globalization as a scapegoat.

"In fact, study after study has shown that roughly 80 percent of jobs lost have been lost due to innovation, automation and technology. A recent report from McKinsey forecasts that by 2030, as many as 375 million workers (14 percent of the world's total) will be displaced by automation. This is a challenge for developed countries and developing countries alike," said the WTO official.

As many trade measures have been put in place, "closing off trade will not prevent those jobs from disappearing," said Rockwell, adding that the answer to the problem is "not a trade answer but a social answer."

He thinks "the best way to ensure that anxieties about globalization do not spiral out of control and into trade conflict is to address the real problem, which is to help people find meaningful work."

He called on governments to take measures to help people "get back on their feet and back into work."

"Governments need to do a better job of preparing young people for the jobs of today and tomorrow through different and better education and training programs," he said.

"It's true the technology can destroy jobs but it also creates many new jobs. Many companies across the world complain that they cannot find enough qualified workers," he added.