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G20 summit backs WTO reform ahead of Trump, Xi trade talks

G20 summit backs WTO reform ahead of Trump, Xi trade talks

BUENOS AIRES: The leaders of the world’s largest economic powers on Saturday backed an overhaul of the global body that regulates international trade disputes, ahead of high-stakes talks between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at defusing a trade war.

The Group of 20 industrialised nations called for reforms to the crisis-stricken World Trade Organisation amid growing global trade tensions, in a final statement from a two-day gathering in Argentina.

The communique, which was finalised after delegates worked through the night on Friday, recognised trade as an important engine of global growth but made only a passing reference to “the current trade issues,” without providing any details.




“We recognise the contribution that the multilateral trading system has made,” the statement read. “The system is currently falling short of its objectives and there is room for improvement. We therefore support the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functioning. We will review progress at our next Summit,” it said.

The WTO is on the verge of becoming dysfunctional, just when it is most needed to fulfill its role as umpire in trade disputes and as the watchdog of global commerce.

The United States is unhappy with what it says is the WTO’s failure to hold Beijing to account for not opening up its economy as envisioned when China joined the body in 2001.

To force reform at the WTO, the United States has blocked new appointments to the world’s top trade court. The European Union is also pushing for reform at the WTO.

On climate change, the United States once again marked its differences with the rest of the G20 by reiterating in the statement its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and its commitment to using all energy sources.

With the United States and China locked in growing disputes over commerce and security that have raised questions about the future of their relationship, global financial markets next week will take their lead from the outcome of talks between Trump and Xi over dinner on Saturday.

The first day of the G20 summit offered glimmers of hope for progress between Washington and Beijing despite Trumps earlier threat of new tariffs, which would increase tensions already weighing on the growth of the global economy.

This year’s summit has proved to be a major test for the G20, whose leaders first met in 2008 to help rescue the global economy from the worst financial crisis in seven decades.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2018

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