G20 trade ministers say ‘urgent need’ to improve the WTO

Trade and investment ministers from G20 countries said on Friday, following a summit in Argentina, that there is an “urgent need” to improve the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In a joint statement, the ministers said they were “stepping up the dialogue” on international trade disputes, Reuters reports.

The statement did not provide any details of possible WTO reforms or how dialogue on trade was being enhances, the report said.

But the comments came as US President Donald Trump has been stepping up trade battles with various nations and also engaging in repeated criticism of the WTO.

“Obviously the new tariff measures are not positive,” Argentina’s Production and Labor Minister, Dante Sica, said in a news conference at the end of a one-day meeting.

“But we need to see how things evolve.”

German Deputy Economy Minister Oliver Wittke said the joint declaration sent a powerful signal about the importance of strengthening WTO “especially in times of ‘America first’ and increasing global protectionism.”

Next steps will follow when G20 leaders meet in Argentina at the end of November.

“We have to use this momentum,” Wittke said in a statement released by the ministry after the summit.

Argentina holds the G20’s rotating presidency this year. Trump has said he would attend the summit’s final meeting with other heads of state, in Buenos Aires, on November 30.

Trump has threatened to pull the United States from the WTO, while China has called for WTO reform to make the global trade system fairer and more effective.

The 23-year-old trading club is run on the basis of consensus, meaning that every one of its 164 members has an effective veto and it is almost impossible to get agreement on any change to the rules.

In other news, Sica said talks on a free trade deal between the European Union and the Mercosur trade bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay were wrapping up, with an agreement likely by the end of the year.

“We are in the final stages regarding the most delicate aspects of an EU-Mercosur agreement and we are concluding with the political and technical details,” Sica said.

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