Oct 4, 2018

World Trade Organization chief says he has never spoken to Trump

World Trade Organisation director-general Brazil's Roberto Azevedo. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

The Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevêdo, said during an episode of Freakonomics Radio that while he has had conversations with the leaders of nearly every major economy, he has never spoken directly with President Trump.

Why it matters: Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the WTO, a move that would send global markets into a spiral and cast trillions of dollars of trade into doubt, per Axios' Jonathan Swan. The U.S. has also blocked the reappointment of one of the WTO's four remaining appellate judges, claiming the panel oversteps its authorities and protects unfair trade practices by other countries.

The big picture: Azevêdo said he can see why President Trump and others may have concerns about the way global trade operates, but claimed those frustrations stem from a lack of understanding about the WTO's history:

"These tariffs are there because they were negotiated over 80 years...those situations are not there by accident. They are there because there is a history behind them and this is why we got to these tariffs and these commitments negotiated in the WTO."

He called for "a deeper conversation" with the U.S. and others in order to resolve ongoing trade tensions, and said he is "always available" if President Trump is interested in reaching out.

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12 p.m. ET: 1,140,327 — Total deaths: 60,887 — Total recoveries: 233,930Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12 p.m. ET: 278,568 — Total deaths: 7,163 — Total recoveries: 9,920Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primaries by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state has opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: A pivotal Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  7. Military updates: Senators call for independent investigation into the firing of Navy captain of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. The U.S. military is struggling to find new recruits as enlistment stations are shut down.
  8. 1 🏀 thing: The WNBA is postponing the start of its training camps and season.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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