A group of prominent World Trade Organization (WTO) member nations have issued a statement registering their mounting concerns over the recent rise in trade tensions between leading economies.
The statement, delivered to a meeting of the WTO's General Council, has been signed by representatives from 41 countries, including developing and developed nations, and has affirmed their ongoing commitment to multilateral global trade.
It welcomed the recovery of world merchandise trade growth in 2017, to which all regions contributed, and expressed positive sentiments about the WTO's encouraging forecasts for 2018 and 2019, while underlining the "key importance" of a well-functioning, rules-based multilateral trading system to achieving "global economic stability, prosperity and development".
This action has been taken in response to the high-profile trade conflict that has developed between the US and numerous other countries, most notably China, over US president Donald Trump's protectionist trade policies. Although efforts are being made to achieve an amicable compromise, the threat of a damaging trade war remains real.
As such, the 41 WTO members have suggested that action may be needed to address the difficulties leading countries are having in concluding negotiations and reconciling divergent positions on trade, calling for all current and future vacancies on the WTO's appellate body to be filled promptly to ensure dispute settlements can be handled smoothly.
They also emphasized that all WTO members need to be willing to contribute to maintain the organization's effectiveness, relevance and responsiveness to the needs of all the countries involved.
The statement said: "We are concerned about increased trade tensions and related risks for the multilateral trading system and world trade. We encourage WTO members to refrain from taking protectionist measures and to avoid risks of escalation.
"We call on members to resolve their differences through dialogue and cooperation, including through WTO bodies and, as appropriate, recourse to WTO dispute settlement."
The complete list of signatories includes Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laos, Liechtenstein, Macedonia Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Vietnam.