GENEVA: The COVID-19 pandemic could provoke the deepest recession in living memory, World Trade Organisation chief Roberto Azevedo warned.
"As we face what may well be the deepest economic recession or downturn of our lifetimes, we should aim to make the most of all potential drivers of sustainable growth to reverse this situation," he told a virtual news conference in Geneva.
Global trade growth is expected to plummet by up to a third in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the WTO said, warning that the numbers would be "ugly".
"World trade is expected to fall by between 13 percent and 32 percent in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts normal economic activity and life around the world," the WTO said in a statement.
There were a wide range of possibilities for how trade would be hit by the "unprecedented" health crisis, it added. However, WTO chief Roberto Azevedo warned the downturn "may well be the deepest economic recession or downturn of our lifetimes".
In its main annual forecast, the 164- member WTO pointed out that trade had already been slowing in 2019, before the emergence of the novel coronavirus.
But the virus has now infected some 1.4 million people since late last year, killing more than 80,000 and forcing governments across the world to take radical measures.