WTO director general Roberto Azevedo has downplayed President Donald Trump's threat to withdraw the US from the organization, saying that it was consistent with his earlier statements to this effect and gave no reason for new concerns.
"The US concerns about areas in the WTO that they would like to improve are not new. And I think what he said yesterday is consistent with what they have expressed before," Azevedo said, adding that there was no reason for “panic.”
"Everyone that would like to see improvements in the WTO is very welcome to present their ideas and their suggestions to improve the organization, sit down with the other members and get the job done," Roberto Azevedo said.
Trump said on Thursday that he could pull out of the WTO, potentially undermining one of the foundations of the modern global economy, which the United States was instrumental in creating.
"If they don't shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO," Trump warned.
Trump has previously called the WTO a "disaster" and a "catastrophe," saying it treats the United States unfairly and gives China undue advantage.
To force the issue, he has brought the WTO’s system for settling international trade disputes to the brink of collapse by blocking the appointment of WTO appeals judges in a bid to force other member-countries to discuss measures to reform the 23-year-old trading club.
During his 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump warned that if the WTO rules blocked his policies, he would renegotiate US membership or pull out from the organization altogether.
The WTO is run on a consensual basis where each of its 164 members has an effective veto and it is almost impossible to get agreement on any change to the rules.