The Latest: WTO chief frets over trade war talk

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Posted: Jan 19, 2017 1:41 PM
The Latest: WTO chief frets over trade war talk

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — The Latest on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (all times local):

7:40 p.m.

The World Trade Organization's top official has voiced his concern that talk of a trade war between the U.S. and China could become self-fulfilling.

Roberto Azevedo, the WTO's director-general, said Thursday: "I think we should try not to talk ourselves into a trade war, and I think we're seeing a lot of that."

There have been a lot of concerns at this year's WEF that Donald Trump's presidency may usher in an era of protectionism.

Azevedo says trade wars should be "taken seriously" and that the major difference between what happened after the 2008 global financial crisis and what happened in the 1930s is the existence of multilateral rules now.

David Cote, chairman and CEO of technology and manufacturing company Honeywell, says he doesn't know whether the world is heading back toward protectionism, but thinks that it's a "little bit too early to press the panic button."

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6:50 p.m.

Roberto Azevedo, director-general of the World Trade Organization, said it's not inevitable that Britain will rejoin the body that oversees global trade soon after it leaves the European Union.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Azevedo said Britain will remain a member until it formally leaves the EU, which is expected in the spring of 2019.

He said the "terms of the divorce" with the EU will determine what happens with the WTO and that the more the British authorities try to change in their trading arrangements, the "more difficult" it will be to conclude a deal with the WTO's 164 members.

Cecilia Malmstrom, Europe's top trade official, said a transition period may be needed after Britain's exit so a trade deal with the EU can be negotiated.

She said it's hard to say how long trade discussions will take — a recently concluded one with Canada took seven years. However, "it won't be done over a weekend," she said.

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5:15 p.m.

A top Russian official says President-elect Donald Trump can only succeed if he cooperates with Russia — and invited Trump to the country's flagship investment forum to boost economic ties.

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov shrugged off criticism of Russia's actions in Ukraine, as Russian executives hope that the Trump administration moves to lift sanctions imposed over Ukraine's conflict.

Shuvalov, speaking Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said his government remains cautious about Trump and whether sanctions are on their way out. But he insisted that Trump can only achieve positive results as president "in cooperation with Russia."

Laying out Russia's economic strategy, Shuvalov predicted 1-2 percent growth this year and said the government is working on deeper reforms that economists say are badly needed to boost the economy.

Slovakia's foreign minister, Miroslav Lacjak, pressed Shuvalov to work on peace in Ukraine if he wants EU sanctions to be lifted.

Russian executives are trying to convince the Trump administration that sanctions didn't work, and are wooing investors at Davos.

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4:10 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's energy minister says there's a chance of another production cut from OPEC countries this year.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, Khalid Al-Falih says he "would not exclude" another cut to follow last year's December agreement if higher prices don't stick.

He noted that in the past the OPEC oil cartel has often had to cut production more than once to stabilize the market.

Another option, he says, is that the recently agreed on production cut could be extended further. However, he says oil ministers don't want to create a shortage too early.

Oil prices are trading over $50 a barrel, nearly double the level they were a year ago.

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11:00 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has sought to convince business leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum that the country remains committed to free trade and globalization.

May said Thursday that the country's decision last year to leave the European Union was not a rejection of "our friends in Europe," or an attempt to cease cooperation.

She said it was a vote to "take control and take decisions for ourselves" and to become "even more global and internationalist in action and spirit as well."

Britain, she added, is looking to strike trade deals with "old friends" and "new allies."

She also said governments have to take account of those left behind by globalization and urged businesses to play by the same rules as everyone else, especially on paying taxes.