September 19, 2018 / 4:40 PM / in 7 months

WTO possible without the U.S.; trade spat between U.S., China could escalate: WTO chief

Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), attends an event of "The Future of International Trade, New Issues, Challenges and Opportunities" in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - It would be possible to have a global trade dispute resolution body without the United States, but it’s unclear whether Washington would favor such an organization, the director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Wednesday.

Speaking at an event in Rio de Janeiro against the backdrop of growing trade tensions between Beijing and Washington, Roberto Azevedo also warned that the commercial dispute between the world’s two largest economies could escalate into other areas. As a result, he said, the WTO has focused on trying to increase dialogue between the two countries.

U.S. President Donald Trump has long railed against the WTO, and his government has eroded its power by blocking appointments to its appeals chamber as existing trade judges’ terms end. If the United States manages to paralyze the WTO’s dispute system, it would end 23 years of WTO enforcement, the keystone of international efforts to prevent trade protectionism.

Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and Rodrigo Viga; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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