“This pandemic will inevitably have an enormous impact on the economy…” director-general Roberto Azevedo said in a video message filmed from his home and posted on the website of the body that creates rules for global commerce.
“Recent projections predict an economic downturn and job losses that are worse than the global financial crisis a dozen years ago,” he added.
He said concrete forecasts were not yet available, but the WTO’s in-house economists expected “a very sharp decline in trade”.
However, he said countries could take important steps to limit immediate economic damage and lay the foundations for a long-term recovery, urging them to work together.
“Coordinating efforts will increase our collective recession-fighting power,” he added.
Azevedo praised stimulus measures taken by governments as “positive”, without naming countries, and also urged WTO members to be transparent and share information.
The body has called off face-to-face meetings at its Geneva headquarters since reporting a coronavirus case earlier this month and also scrapped its major biennial meeting, due to be held in Kazakhstan in June, due to the outbreak.