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WTO: Global Economy Weighed Down by War02/26 06:12

   

   ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The head of the World Trade 
Organization warned on Monday that war, uncertainty and instability are 
weighing down the global economy and urged the bloc to embrace reform as 
elections across nearly half the world's population could bring new challenges.

   WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala sought to offer some praise for her 
organization as it held its binneial meeting in the United Arab Emirates, even 
as it faces pressure from the United States and other nations.

   But she was blunt about the risks ahead, as higher prices for food, energy 
and other essentials sting people's pockets, "fueling political frustration."

   "People everywhere are feeling anxious about the future and this will be 
felt at the ballot box this year," she said.

   None are perhaps more critical for the WTO than the U.S. presidential 
election on Nov. 5.

   Running again is former President Donald Trump, who threatened to withdraw 
the U.S. from the WTO and repeatedly levied tariffs -- taxes on imported goods 
-- on perceived friends and foes alike. A Trump win could again roil global 
trade.

   Okonjo-Iweala did not mention Trump by name, but offered a warning about 
attacks against multilaterism.

   "The multilateral trading system, which I term a global public good since it 
was created 75 years ago, continues to be misconstrued some quarters and 
undermined," she said.

   But even if President Joe Biden is re-elected, the United States has deep 
reservations over the WTO. The U.S. under the past three administrations has 
blocked appointments to its appeals court, and it's no longer operating. 
Washington says the WTO judges have overstepped their authority too often in 
ruling on cases.

   The U.S. also has criticized China for still describing itself as a 
developing country as it did when it joined the WTO in 2001. Washington, Europe 
and others say that Beijing improperly hampers access to emerging industries 
and steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. The U.S. 
also says China floods world markets with cheap steel, aluminum and other 
products.

   The WTO's member-nations will discuss a deal to ban subsidies that 
contribute to overfishing, extending a pause on taxes on digital media such as 
movies and video games, and agricultural issues while meeting this week in the 
Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi.

   Also on Monday at the opening session, Comoros and Timor-Leste joined the 
WTO, bringing the number of nations in the bloc to 166.

   But headwinds remain for the organization and the world's economy, 
particularly as the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic remains uneven 
across nations.

   Okonjo-Iweala made no mention of Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, 
though she noted the ongoing disruptions to shipping caused by Yemen's Houthi 
rebels in the Red Sea over the conflict.

   "Shipping disruptions in vital waterways like the Red Sea and the Panama 
Canal are a new source of delays and inflationary pressure," she said.

   WTO is also hampered by its voting format, with major decisions requiring 
consensus -- meaning countries must actively vote in favor for proposals to 
take effect.

   "If we thought the world looked tough in mid-2022, when we were slowly 
emerging from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine had shaken food and energy 
security, we are in an even-tougher place today," Okonjo-Iweala said.

 
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