IMF, WTO, OECD vow to defend free trade against protectionism

World commerce authorities face growing global alarm over US President Donald Trump's "America First" call in trade relations, such as concerns over threats to unilaterally impose tariffs

The chiefs of the IMF, WTO and OECD vowed Monday in a joint statement to defend free trade against creeping protectionist trends, amid growing global alarm over US President Donald Trump's "America First" call.

"Disappointing trade growth figures and the danger of increasing protectionist tendencies give us a clear incentive to support the international trading system even more," said the statement, also signed by the heads of the World Bank and the ILO, as well as host of the meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The World Trade Organization has forecasted that global trade would likely grow only within a range of 1.8 percent to 3.1 percent this year.

But of greater concern is the Trump administration's attitude towards global commerce.

During his campaign, Trump described the WTO as a "disaster" and promised a more aggressive approach to open up foreign markets to US companies, including threatening to unilaterally imposing tariffs.

The US also refused at a G20 meeting in March to renew a long-standing anti-protectionist pledge, to the dismay of the group of top developed and developing nations.

At the meeting in Berlin, the leaders of the international organisations and Merkel also stressed the role of the WTO in creating "new growth, employment and development opportunities".

In addition, they underlined their commitment to combating climate change -- another key issue that was dropped at the G20 meeting because of US opposition.