Friday, October 27, 2023

WTO Chief Warns of Trade Impact if Israel-Hamas Conflict Expands


Israel-Hamas Conflict Could Have a Significant Impact on Global Trade, Says WTO Chief

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has the potential to greatly impact global trade flows if it continues to escalate, according to World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Speaking at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Morocco, Okonjo-Iweala expressed her hope for a quick resolution to the conflict, emphasizing the potential consequences for an already weakened global economy.

Okonjo-Iweala highlighted several factors that are already throttling trade growth, including higher interest rates, a strained Chinese property market, and Russia’s war in Ukraine. She warned that the Middle East violence could further exacerbate these challenges and have a significant impact on global economic growth if it spreads throughout the region.

The WTO chief stated, “Our biggest fear is if it widens because that will then have a really big impact on trade. Everybody’s on eggshells and hoping for the best.” She emphasized the uncertainty surrounding the conflict and its potential to create further economic instability. Okonjo-Iweala referred to it as “another dark cloud on the horizon.”

The Geneva-based trade body recently revised its growth forecast for global goods trade this year, citing persistent inflation, higher interest rates, the slowing Chinese economy, and the war in Ukraine. The WTO now predicts that merchandise trade volumes will only increase by 0.8 percent in 2023, compared to the previous estimate of 1.7 percent in April.

Looking ahead to 2024, the WTO expects goods trade growth to reach 3.3 percent, a forecast that remains virtually unchanged from its previous estimate of 3.2 percent in April. However, the organization has expressed concerns about signs of trade fragmentation linked to global tensions, although it does not see evidence of a broader de-globalization that could threaten its 2024 forecast.

The Israel-Hamas conflict adds another layer of uncertainty to an already fragile global trade environment. Okonjo-Iweala stressed the importance of containing the conflict and preventing its escalation to avoid further negative impacts on trade. She stated, “There is uncertainty about whether this is going to spread further to the whole region, which could impact very much on global economic growth.”

The consequences of the conflict extend beyond the immediate region, as global trade is interconnected and interdependent. Any disruption in trade flows can have far-reaching effects on various sectors and economies worldwide. The potential widening of the conflict poses a significant risk to the already struggling global economy.

The WTO chief’s remarks serve as a reminder of the delicate balance required to maintain stable global trade. With multiple challenges already affecting trade growth, the Israel-Hamas conflict adds another layer of complexity. The international community is closely monitoring the situation, hoping for a swift resolution and containment of the conflict.

As the world grapples with various economic challenges, it is crucial for nations to work together to ensure stability and promote trade. The WTO continues to play a vital role in facilitating global trade and addressing potential threats to its growth. The organization’s forecasts and warnings serve as a call to action for policymakers and stakeholders to prioritize peaceful resolutions and maintain open and stable trade relations.

In conclusion, the Israel-Hamas conflict has the potential to significantly impact global trade flows if it continues to escalate. The WTO chief’s concerns about the conflict widening and its consequences for the global economy highlight the need for swift resolution and containment. As trade remains a crucial driver of economic growth, it is essential for nations to prioritize stability and cooperation to mitigate any potential disruptions in trade flows.

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