DG Azevêdo said:
"In light of recent announcements on trade policy measures, it is clear that we now see a much higher and real risk of triggering an escalation of trade barriers across the globe. We cannot ignore this risk and I urge all parties to consider and reflect on this situation very carefully. Once we start down this path, it will be very difficult to reverse direction. An eye for an eye will leave us all blind and the world in deep recession. We must make every effort to avoid the fall of the first dominoes. There is still time."
In his statement the Director-General also reflected on the way forward after the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires in December. He encouraged members to learn from the experience of MC11 and to find ways of increasing the levels of flexibility that they show to each other.
DG Azevêdo also commented on the current situation in the WTO's Appellate Body, specifically regarding the impasse in the selection process for new Appellate Body members. He urged members to act on this point, which he described as an "extremely serious and urgent concern for us all", as the dispute settlement function underpins the whole trading system. The Director-General said that members should be actively formulating and discussing solutions, and that he would be facilitating further conversations on the issue in the coming days.