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WTO helps transform international economic relations: Azevedo

Geneva, Jan 2 (IANS) Over the past 25 years, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has helped transform international economic relations, said Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the WTO, on Wednesday.

“Binding rules for global trade in goods and services have facilitated dramatic growth in cross-border business activity,” said Azevedo in a written statement, marking the 25th founding anniversary of the WTO, which was established on January 1, 1995, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Azevedo recalled that since 1995, the dollar value of world trade has nearly quadrupled, while the real volume of world trade has expanded by 2.7 times. “This far outstrips the two-fold increase in world GDP over that period,” he underlined.

Meanwhile, average tariffs have almost halved, from 10.5 per cent to 6.4 per cent, he noted.

The predictable market conditions fostered by the WTO have combined with improved communications to enable the rise of global value chains (GVCs), he continued, adding that the rise of GVCs has been a key factor in enabling rapid catch-up growth in developing economies, while facilitating increased purchasing power and consumer choice in all countries.

Despite these considerable achievements, Azevedo acknowledged that “the WTO faces challenges today that are unmatched in our relatively short history.”

He said that over the past two years, governments have introduced trade restrictions covering a substantial amount of international trade. He also admitted that “in dispute settlement we suffered a setback… when members could not agree on reforms for the Appellate Body.”

The Appellate Body, the de facto court of appeals at the WTO, is unable to hear any new cases since December 11, 2019, because it only has one judge left due to repeated blockage of the nomination of its members by the US.

However, Azevedo stressed that he had already started consultations with members to explore all aspects of dispute settlement reform and would engage at high political levels both in Geneva and in capitals to identify potential solutions.

The WTO chief said he continued to believe that the WTO is more important than ever before for the global economy, for job creation, for growth and for development.

–IANS

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