World trade seen growing 2.4 percent in 2017, uncertainty weighs: WTO

Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:17am EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - World trade is on track to expand by 2.4 percent this year, though there is "deep uncertainty" about economic and policy developments, particularly in the United States, the World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Wednesday.

WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said that clarity was still needed on U.S. President Donald Trump's trade policies, while making a general appeal to resist protectionism.

The results of upcoming elections in major economies including France should provide more predictability for investors, he said.

The range for growth this year has been adjusted to between 1.8 and 3.6 percent, from 1.8 to 3.1 percent last September, the WTO said.

"We should see trade as part of the solution to economic difficulties, not part of the problem," Azevedo said.

"Overall I think that while there are some reasons for cautious optimism, trade growth remains fragile and there are considerable risks on the downside. Much of the uncertainty around the outlook is political," he told a news conference.

"We need to keep strengthening the system, delivering new reforms, and resisting the erection of new barriers to trade."

The WTO has repeatedly revised preliminary estimates over the past five years as predictions of economic recovery prove overly optimistic.   Continued...

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo attends a news conference on world trade figure for 2016 and forecast for 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse