WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Automation and other technological advancements far surpass international trade as the leading cause of job losses in the United States and abroad, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo said on Friday.
“Studies suggest that almost 50 percent of existing jobs in the US are at high risk of automation,” Azevedo said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
The 2016 US presidential election campaign has been marked by criticism, from voters as well as the Democratic and Republican candidates, of Washington’s policy on free-trade agreements such as the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Opponents of such policies argue that trade deals enacted over the past few decades have cost millions of US jobs and threaten millions more.
Roberto Azevedo also noted that attempting to reverse job losses in the United States through trade-restricting policies and opposition to new agreements will worsen unemployment.
“Raising trade barriers to deal with unemployment in advanced economies in particular is just the wrong medicine,” Azevedo told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. “There will be more jobs lost, not saved.”
Asked how the WTO would be affected by potentially protectionist US policies if either Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump is elected president, Azevedo said “it is easy to blame trade” for job losses, adding that the nation’s debate over trade should be “clarified.”
The WTO asserts that such protectionist arguments are not backed by research showing that international trade raises household incomes on average and lead to the net creation of more jobs.