WTO postpones major meeting on COVID-19 concerns


A sign of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) is pictured at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, November 25, 2021. REUTERS / Denis Balibouse

Register now for FREE and unlimited access to reuters.com

Register now

GENEVA, Nov. 26 (Reuters) – The World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday became the first major diplomatic victim of the novel variant of the coronavirus when it postponed its first ministerial meeting in four years due to the deterioration of the health situation, sources based in Geneva said. .

Ministers from WTO members were due to meet next week for a meeting widely seen as a test of the relevance of the WTO.

The World Health Organization has classified the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa as a “variant of concern”, saying it could spread faster than other forms of the virus. Scientists are also investigating whether it is resistant to the vaccine.

Register now for FREE and unlimited access to reuters.com

Register now

Switzerland, the headquarters of the WTO, on Friday banned direct flights from South Africa and the surrounding region, and imposed tests and quarantine requirements on travel from other countries, including Belgium , Hong Kong and Israel.

The Geneva-based trade body had scheduled an in-person meeting, but the new restrictions meant that delegations from big players such as South Africa and the Brussels-based European Commission would have been limited to a largely virtual presence.

Even before the postponement, the outlook was not bright.

The WTO has only succeeded in one update to its global rules in nearly 27 years of existence, the red tape-cutting trade facilitation agreement, and its 164 members seemed far from s ” be in agreement in its most active discussions – on reducing fisheries subsidies and the spread of COVID-19 vaccines more widely.

“I think the organization has to demonstrate that it is capable of being successful,” chief executive Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.

Register now for FREE and unlimited access to reuters.com

Register now

Reporting by Emma Farge and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebahay in Geneva; Written by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Porter and Sandra Maler

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


Comments are closed.