WTO chief agrees on need to reform organisation

Geneva (AFP) –


The head of the World Trade Organization agreed Thursday with a call from French President Emmanuel Macron for reform, saying he saw a need to "strengthen" the body and "make it more effective".

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo has in recent months warned that the US-led trend of erecting new trade barriers and sable-rattling on commerce could hamper global growth.

He met with France's Macron on Wednesday to discuss "current global trade tensions" and the "central role of the WTO in safeguarding the stability and predictability of the trading system," the organisation said in a statement.

"It was comforting to hear what he said and I agree entirely with his assessment on the need to strengthen the WTO and to make it more effective in addressing the trade challenges of today," Azevedo said in the statement.

The WTO chief, who has been at the helm of the global trade body since 2013, said he stood "ready to support him and all WTO members in exploring ways to make the WTO work better for all."

His comments came after Macron on Wednesday told officials at the annual forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris that he wanted talks on overhauling the WTO.

Macron voiced frustration after weeks of intense EU lobbying to remain exempted from the metal tariffs announced by US President Donald Trump in early March.

Officials have indicated they see little chance that Trump will continue exempting EU companies from the duties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminium.

"Our task is to find a collective response," Macron said, adding that "only a reformed WTO can give us this framework."