World Trade Organisation boss Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has played down the chances of a UK-EU trade war over Northern Ireland, saying she would be a “little surprised” if it came to that.
The WTO director general told journalists today that a trade war would be “too costly for both sides”.
The UK and EU are in the midst of tense negotiations over how to implement the post-Brexit protocol, with Johnson’s government calling for a more relaxed approach on customs checks for goods going between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Boris Johnson today threatened to tear up the treaty if the EU does not become more flexible in its approach.
The UK has also threatened to ignore a ban on Great British sausages being sent to Northern Ireland, which is set to come into place at the end of June.
The EU has said this uniliateral action would lead to a trade war.
Okonjo-Iweala, who will speak to G7 leaders this afternoon, told journalists at the summit that she believed a solution would be found.
“I really think that with all the opportunities there are for dialogue, I would be a little surprised if we ended up with a UK-EU trade war,” she said.
“It’s too costly for both sides – this isn’t what the world needs right now.
“I’ve seen the leaders engage in the various aspects where there is misunderstanding. I hope that will not materialise.”
Okonjo-Iweala will also rally G7 leaders today to supply up to £50bn funding to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 by the end of next year.
She said this kind of intervention would help vaccinate 40 per cent of the world population this year and a further 60 per cent next year.
The WTO boss said failure to vaccinate the world’s poorest countries against Covid-19 would severely hamper the global post-pandemic economic recovery.
“Instead of spending billions to solve this problem [of Covid-19] we’ve spent trillions locally,” she said.
“We’re going to say it’s better now to mobilise this money, to spend that now rather than mobilising trillions in response.
“The rate of return on this kind of expenditure is exponential. If we can spend this money to get our vaccine rates to 40 per cent this year we are going to reap the reward of $9 trillion of increasing in global GDP by 2025.”