Informal meeting useful to carry forward WTO mandate: Roberto Azevedo

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"This is a moment we are facing many challenges inside and outside WTO", he said.

Ahead of a meeting of over 40 countries, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Monday warned of escalation of trade tensions following recent United States decision to increase tariffs and urged members to work together to "step back from the brink". While the informal ministerial meeting has been organised by the government to break the impasse in global trade talks, a breakthrough is unlikely given that the three trade giants - the United States, the European Union and China - are not represented by their trade chiefs and have instead sent the second in command, indicating the importance that they attach.

Mr Azevedo told reporters that the global trade environment was quite risky and the trade body had sought an "open and honest" conversation with its members. The WTO DG is in New Delhi to participate in the informal ministerial meeting on March 20 hosted by India. We have very significant challenges before us.

"The US wants some upgrade and reforms (in the WTO) and the conversations with the USA are going on", Azevedo told the reporters on the sidelines of the informal meeting where around 50 WTO members participated in discussions.

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Although the meeting does not have a fixed agenda, it assumes significance against the backdrop of increase in duties on steel and aluminum by the U.S. administration, and Washington dragging India to the WTO against export incentive programmes. However, there are only four judges now.

The meet will will provide an opportunity for free and frank discussions to representatives from several developed and developing countries on several complex issues. The positions of three members are vacant for over a year because of lack of consensus among countries.

In a sharp remark, one trade envoy, who did not want to be identified, said, "After killing the Doha Development Round trade negotiations and giving up on development, concerted attempts are being made now to water down the dispute settlement system to an extent that would be acceptable to the one major member".

While there were some encouraging trends in global trade, Azevedo pointed to the rising risks posed by recent protectionist moves by the members.

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