Global Instability Threatens World Economy, WTO Chief Warns

The head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned of a difficult road ahead for the global economy at the WTO's meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday. She cautioned that war, uncertainty, and instability are weighing down economic growth as countries slowly recover from the pandemic.

"People everywhere are feeling anxious about the future and this will be felt at the ballot box this year," Okonjo-Iweala said. She warned against attacks on multilateralism and the rules-based trading system, without directly naming US President Donald Trump who has threatened to leave the WTO.

The WTO chief acknowledged criticism of her organization but defended the 75-year-old body as a "global public good." She called out China for unfairly claiming developing country status. However, Okonjo-Iweala said the WTO can make progress on issues like overfishing subsidies, digital tax talks, and agricultural policies at the Abu Dhabi meeting.

Still, she cautioned that major headwinds persist, including uneven pandemic recovery, shipping problems, inflationary pressures from the war in Ukraine, and food and energy insecurity. "If we thought the world looked tough in mid-2022, we are in an even tougher place today," the WTO director-general warned.

Okonjo-Iweala's sober message comes as the global economy contends with fresh challenges. High costs of food, fuel, and other essential goods are squeezing household budgets. Meanwhile, the pandemic recovery remains imbalanced across countries.

The WTO chief's remarks highlight the precarious state of the world economy. With major elections coming up, she warned economic anxieties could fuel political frustration. Her calls for defending multilateralism suggest concerns about the rise of protectionism and anti-trade sentiment.

While Okonjo-Iweala tried to praise the WTO, she acknowledged the body itself is hampered by internal divisions. With the growth outlook darkening, the path ahead for global trade and cooperation looks challenging. The WTO meeting offers a chance to make progress but the chief's warnings underline the difficult road to economic stability.

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