By Fatih Erel
DAVOS, Switzerland (AA) - World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevedo at the World Economic Forum on Thursday urged countries to refrain from taking measures towards protectionism in reference to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump will address a special closing session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday.
"It is a big discussion. l think everybody is curious to see what he is going to say tomorrow. I personally do not expect him to say anything that is going to be different what he has already been saying. But, the message is very clear: l think nobody should be surprised about what he says tomorrow," Azevedo told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.
"There is pressure to impose protectionist measures. So far, l think the WTO with its rules has been able to contain and push back some of that protectionism and these pressures. That is why what we should continue to do is monitor, be careful, not ignore this potential of protectionism and make sure that governments continue to refrain adapting measures they will regret later," Azevedo said.
After he was elected, Trump described the WTO as a "disaster" and suggested the U.S. could withdraw from the Geneva-based global trading body.
Azevedo addressed the relations between the U.S. and the WTO under the Trump administration.
"They have been talking with the World Trade Organization. Today, they are taking a more careful, more distant approach but they have not walked out. They have not abandoned the system. They are still talking. They try to seek that their views are recognized by the others. [...] it does not mean the other will agree with the points they are making," he said.
Noting that trade and economic issues have been the top issues in Davos, Azevedo said: "Ever since l got to Davos the only thing l heard about was trade, the whole week we are talking about trade."
"The WTO is more central than ever. l keep saying it is not perfect. No multilateral organization is perfect. But, it is absolutely essential. If we did not have the WTO, the global economy would be in a much worse position than [it is] today," Azevedo said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Davos on Wednesday stressed the importance of multilateralism and global cooperation.
French President Emmanuel Macron also in Davos warned of rising protectionism.
Over 3,000 participants from more than 110 countries and more than 340 public figures, including more than 70 heads of state and government and 45 heads of international organizations, are attending the Davos Economic Forum.
Also in Davos are 10 heads of state from Africa, nine from the Middle East and North Africa, and six from Latin America, plus 40 Western leaders.