WTO chief does not foresee 'unmanageable' U.S. trade policy

February 22, 2017 09:43 AM

World Trade Organization chief Roberto Azevedo said on Wednesday he had not yet discussed trade issues with the new U.S. administration but was confident the WTO could cope with any new U.S. trade policy.

Azevedo said he did not know what trade policy President Donald Trump would adopt but had heard his concerns about "unfair trade" and suggestions he might withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and maybe the WTO itself.

Trump, whose policy motto is "America first", has already pulled the United States back from creating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement that many experts thought would give a big boost to the U.S. economy.

The WTO, a forum for resolving trade disputes and negotiating new trading rules, offers the tools to address many of concerns that had been raised, Azevedo said, and he was confident other WTO members wanted to find a path forward.

"I don’t think that we are facing anything that is unmanageable because different views and different opinions have been part of our work on a daily basis," he said.

"I have seen situations like this arise over and over again, where situations of uncertainty or unpredictability prevail, especially in transition," he told a news conference.

"I don’t think we’re seeing anything now that would preclude us from making ... progress again."

Last week, Trump referred to merely "tweaking" NAFTA, which links the economies of the United States, Mexico and Canada. He has not said anything publicly about leaving the WTO since becoming president.

The United States is free to propose reforms to the trade rulebook governed by the Geneva-based body if it feels it is getting an unfair deal, but it would need agreement by the other 163 members to bring those reforms to fruition.

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