Forty-one members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a joint statement on Tuesday expressing concerns over rising trade tensions and risks of escalating protectionism.
The statement, delivered to a meeting of the WTO's General Council, called on governments to resolve their differences through dialogue and cooperation, including through the WTO.
"We are concerned about increased trade tensions and related risks for the multilateral trading system and world trade," said the statement.
It encouraged WTO members to refrain from taking protectionist measures and to avoid risks of escalation.
"We call on members to resolve their differences through dialogue and cooperation, including through WTO bodies and, as appropriate, recourse to WTO dispute settlement," it said.
The group of members, which includes developing and developed economies, underlined that a well-functioning, rules-based multilateral trading system embodied in the WTO is of "key importance for our economies as well as for global economic stability, prosperity and development."
They called for action to address major challenges facing the WTO, including overcoming difficulties in concluding negotiations and divergent positions on trade and development.
They also highlighted the importance of filling all current and future vacancies on the Appellate Body without delay.
On Monday, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo had also addressed trade tension concerns at a meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee.
He urged members to step up their engagement towards tackling a number of systemic challenges, including rising trade tensions among major members and the impasse regarding nominations for the Appellate Body.