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WTO chief says Chinese economy to help boost global growth

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-01-20 13:45
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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), speaks at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2024 in Davos, Switzerland, Jan 18, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

DAVOS, Switzerland -- China plays a key role in boosting global economic growth, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said.

"China has always been able to come up with instruments to help stimulate the economy, and we're fully expecting that the government still has room to do quite a lot," Okonjo-Iweala told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Thursday.

With some measures already taken by China, she said, the Chinese economy is expected "to be able to begin to rebound."

Since its accession to the WTO more than 20 years ago, China has become the world's largest trader of goods and a major trading partner for over 140 countries and regions, contributing an average of nearly 30 percent to the world's annual economic growth.

Highlighting China's key role in boosting global trade and global economic growth, Okonjo-Iweala said, "Whatever happens to China impacts the world and that's why it's in the interest of everyone for the Chinese economy to perform well."

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's GDP posted a 5.2 percent year-on-year growth in 2023, reflecting a strong post-COVID rebound.

"China plays a very strong role and we would like to see the Chinese economy come back strongly, because that will boost global trade. It will boost global growth. It's not just about China alone, but it's also about the rest of the world," she said.

Global trade outlook

In October, the Geneva-based trade body said merchandise trade would increase by just 0.8 percent in 2023, compared with its April estimate of 1.7 percent. For this year, it predicted a 3.3 percent growth in goods trade.

"We had forecasted 0.8 percent growth for global trade last year, it was a year in which global goods trade was a little bit weak in terms of performance. We were more bullish about 2024, we forecast that 3.3 percent growth," Okonjo-Iweala said.

"But given the disruptions we've seen in the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal, and the higher costs of container freight and shipping and insurance that we are seeing, we think this will have an impact," she said.

"Aggregate demand is down overall, and it may go down further and this will have an impact. We think that the forecast we had of 3.3 percent is a little too optimistic for this year," she added.

Calls for multilateralism

Commending China's role in defending the multilateral trading system, Okonjo-Iweala said, "China, from the standpoint of the WTO, has been a strong supporter of the multilateral trading system and multilateralism."

China has been not only a beneficiary of the multilateral trading system, but also beneficial to the multilateral trading system, she added.

"We hope that that will continue and that China will continue to be a strong member that will also help the WTO to solve some of the problems of global trade that we see emerging," she said.

Okonjo-Iweala also called on WTO members to abide by the global rules of trade, "which we would like to see everyone work together on in a multilateral system."

Every member of the organization should work within the multilateral rules of trade, she said.

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