Trump WTO chief says no 'indication' US will quit body under President-elect

"I haven't talked to him," he added, when asked if he had spoken to Trump directly since the November 8 US vote.

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World Trade Organization (WTO) Director general Roberto Azevedo gives press conference in Geneva on November 24, 2016 play

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director general Roberto Azevedo gives press conference in Geneva on November 24, 2016

(AFP)
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The head of the World Trade Organization said Thursday he had had no indication the United States would move to leave the WTO under Donald Trump's administration.

"I haven't had any indication from anybody that that could be the case," WTO chief Roberto Azevedo told reporters.

During his campaign, which repeatedly attacked global trade deals, President-elect Trump called the WTO a "disaster" and said the US could quit the Geneva-based body.

Azevedo stressed it was premature to speculate on what Trump may do in office.

"I just don't know what the trade policies are," Azevedo said of the incoming administration.

"I haven't talked to him," he added, when asked if he had spoken to Trump directly since the November 8 US vote.

"What we have to do is be ready for a conversation" with Trump's economic team, the Brazilian national added.

Azevedo conceded that swathes of people worldwide had come to see global trade as a job killer even though such perceptions were not supported by evidence.

He said any fixes to the broader globalisation project must not include reactionary, protectionist measures.

US President-elect Donald Trump speaks to reporters in Bedminster Township, New Jersey, on November 19, 2016 play

US President-elect Donald Trump speaks to reporters in Bedminster Township, New Jersey, on November 19, 2016

(Getty/AFP/File)

"If the medicine is simply protectionism, the outcome will be that you harm the patient," Azevedo said.

He suggested that politicians had been able to use global trade as a scapegoat for economic woes and job losses because leaders had stopped defending it.

"A mistake that was done in the past, even from organisations like mine, is that people took trade for granted," the WTO boss said.

"Trade is so obviously a positive (economic) component... that people forgot to explain why," he continued. "You have to make the case for trade again."

Trump's most dramatic pledge since his shock election win was a vow to pull the US of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact on his first day in the White House.

The TPP is President Barack Obama's signature trade initiative which still needs approval from the Republican-dominated Congress.

Asia leader have said that without US inclusion the pact was essentially meaningless.

The TPP was not negotiated through the WTO but Azevedo has voiced support for it and other regional trade deals, which he says complement the WTO's objectives.

In a short video message on Tuesday, 70-year-old property tycoon Trump called the TPP "a potential disaster for our country."

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