Davos 2020: WTO will survive but it will look different, says Roberto Azevedo amid growing call for protectionism over free trade

  • Speaking at WEF annual summit in Davos, WTO chief Roberto Azevedo said , 'We live in an age of disruption...and an easy answer is to blame the foreign imports'

  • On whether the WTO will survive as a dispute-resolution body, Azevedo said it will continue to play an important role but will need to be reformed

  • Leaders across the world are discussing what can the international community do to restore confidence and cooperation in trade at WEF in Davos

Davos: Amid a growing clamour among the political class for protectionism over free trade, WTO chief Roberto Azevedo on Tuesday said the global trade body would definitely survive this wave but it might look different.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual summit in Davos, he said, "We live in an age of disruption... and an easy answer is to blame the foreign imports."

On whether the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will survive as a dispute-resolution body, Azevedo said it will continue to play an important role but will need to be reformed. "It's just going to look different," he said.

 Davos 2020: WTO will survive but it will look different, says Roberto Azevedo amid growing call for protectionism over free trade

File image of WTO chief Roberto Azevedo. Image courtesy: WTO

Asked what would be the future wave for the world between free trade and protectionism, Azevedo said the answer would have been clearly free trade if the question was what "should be".

But when it is about 'what would' be, it becomes a complex question, he said, referring to the recent rise of economic populism around the globe.

"We live in an age of disruption, at a political level and otherwise too. People are not taking decisions on the basis of what is best for my country, but rather on the basis of what my voters want right now," he said.

Azevedo said he has no confusion that the WTO would survive but it would definitely take a new shape and it is definitely going to look different. He was speaking during a session on 'Recharging International Trade'.

He also said data is a very critical aspect of the conversation at the WTO.

The WTO Director-General said there are some key principles that need to be subjected to control, like confidentiality, but we need to make sure data flows are not unnecessarily restricted to ensure economic growth is not affected.

The past two years have seen a rise in tariffs that have disrupted global supply chains and hindered investment, weighing on global growth prospects.

Leaders at the WEF are discussing what can the international community do to restore confidence and cooperation in trade.

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Updated Date: Jan 21, 2020 22:06:08 IST