March 20, 2018 / 1:11 PM / 9 months ago

WTO members say U.S. actions threaten trade body's credibility

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Nearly 50 countries expressed concern on Tuesday about the “serious threat” to the World Trade Organisation posed by unilateral trade actions, a pointed reference to U.S. import tariffs that have caused a global outcry.

Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and India's Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu (L) leave after a news conference in New Delhi, India March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Delivering concluding remarks after a two-day informal meeting of the WTO members in New Delhi, Indian Trade Minister Suresh Prabhu did not refer to the United States by name.

He said members expressed deep concern over the “serious threat” posed to the credibility of the WTO, particularly on its principle of “non-discrimination” following the cycle of recent unilateral trade measures.

“In some interventions, the need for WTO members taking urgent and coordinated action to address the underlying issues was highlighted,” Prabhu said.

“It was recognised by almost all the participants that it is the collective responsibility of WTO members to address the challenges facing the system and putting it back on a steady and meaningful way forward so that it continues to serve the people of our countries.”

Calling for a united front to respond to the U.S. tariffs, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said the recent unilateral trade measures have the potential to escalate tensions.

“We heard today, many, many countries saying we have a concern over this. There is a potential of escalation. We should try to work in the framework of WTO,” Azevedo said.

Separately, Prabhu told reporters that the United States was committed to the World Trade Organisation, even though Washington has raised concerns about the functioning of the WTO and asked for reforms.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pressed ahead with import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent for aluminum, but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies, backtracking from an earlier “no-exceptions” stance.

Prabhu also said India will bilaterally discuss import curbs on steel with the United States.

Reporting by Manoj Kumar; Writing by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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