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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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