EU to push for G20 summit to support WTO reform

Global trade tensions are putting at risk commitments by the Group of 20 leading economies to keep markets open, European Union delegates to the G20 said, pledging to help reform World Trade Organization rules to resolve the strains.

G20 leaders meet on Friday and Saturday in Buenos Aires with the escalating trade dispute between the United States and China likely to top the agenda.

The chairman of EU leaders’ meetings Donald Tusk and the head of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, Jean-Claude Juncker will represent the 28-nation bloc at the summit.

“The outlook ahead of the summit is rather bleak. The rules-based international order is under increasing strain and global trade tensions remain unresolved, thereby negatively affecting the global economic outlook,” Tusk and Juncker said.

“We, therefore, want to focus our attention on convincing our partners that there is no better alternative than a coordinated multilateral cooperation,” they said in a letter to other EU leaders.

The United States and China have been imposing tariffs on each other’s goods in a dispute over market access, forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights and state subsidies to certain sectors that distort competition.

The EU, Canada and Japan are also involved because of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum products imposed by Washington earlier this year.

WTO rules had to be adapted to new global challenges, such as industrial subsidies, forced technology transfer and other market-distorting policies, the EU letter said.

The G20 summit should also aim to help end the blockage of appointments by the United States to the WTO’s body for settling disputes and halt the escalation of unilateral measures and countermeasures by the world’s two biggest economies.

President Donald Trump has brought the world’s top trade court to the brink of collapse by refusing to endorse new judges. From December 2019 there will be only one judge left, making it impossible for the WTO to issue final appeal rulings.

“The longstanding G20 commitments to keep markets open, to fight protectionism and support the multilateral trading system, risk becoming empty words,” the letter said.

The EU, which published proposals on Monday for WTO reform, would promote changes to the body’s three functions: negotiating, monitoring and dispute settlement to “tackle the root causes of the tensions”, it said.

The EU wants concrete progress at WTO trade discussions in Geneva by the time G20 meets again in Japan in June 2019.

It also underlined the need for further progress in curbing global steel overcapacity. “We will therefore support the full implementation of all commitments to further reduce excess capacity and eliminate the subsidies that cause it,” the letter said.

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