WTO reschedules ministerial conference for MarchTuesday, November 30, 2021
GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The World Trade Organization (WTO) said Tuesday it had rescheduled to March a ministerial conference that would have tackled thorny trade issues including fisheries and intellectual property because of the pandemic.
The meeting, the first at this level since 2017, was to have run from Tuesday to Friday and bring together some 4,000 figures including heads of state and more than 100 government ministers.
The postponed gathering had already been from one planned last June in Kazakhstan but switched in the wake of the emergence of the COVID-19 virus.
The WTO proposed a postponement to next year given "the deterioration of the epidemiological situation and ensuing travel restrictions" with the emergence of the latest Omicron virus variant.
It is now proposed the meeting go ahead "during the first week of March 2022, if conditions allow".
In a letter to national member missions, the WTO president and vice-presidents said the postponement should "not be a reason for us not to roll up our sleeves" as the WTO requires solidarity and full support "at this critical moment".
Pressing current issues on the WTO agenda are addressing intellectual property disputes as well as fisheries subsidies.
Calling for a "sensible solution" to the former, the WTO urged flexibility on the latter "given that the fisheries subsidies negotiations have progressed substantially in the last few weeks".
The ministerial meeting will be the first since Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala took the helm as WTO director general last March seeking to bolster the body's visibility amid growing trade rivalry between the United States and China.