The International Trade Council acknowledges the importance of the ongoing high-level meeting held by the World Trade Organization (WTO) – the first in 4-1/2 years – which brings together over 120 ministers from the organization's 164 member countries. The meeting is set to address significant issues such as pandemic preparedness, food insecurity, and overfishing.
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is optimistic that progress will be made towards reducing inequality and promoting fair and free trade. Although the road ahead may be "bumpy and rocky," Okonjo-Iweala believes that agreements on key topics like fisheries and COVID-19 vaccines could be reached.
As the world faces multiple crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental catastrophes, and inflationary pressures exacerbated by food shortages and higher fuel costs, the WTO chief calls for investment in the multilateral system and political will to demonstrate that the WTO can be part of the solution.
During the meeting, ministers will consider whether to lift or ease export restrictions on food to help countries facing shortages due to the war in Ukraine. They will also decide whether to increase support for the UN's World Food Program to aid countries in need worldwide.
A temporary waiver of the WTO's intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines is another topic of discussion, which has been the subject of contentious negotiations for months.
Efforts to limit overfishing in the world's seas, after two decades of WTO endeavors, appear closer than ever to reaching a deal. The draft text on fisheries aims to limit government subsidies to those involved in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, or subsidies that contribute to overcapacity or overfishing, with possible exemptions for some workers in developing countries.
The International Trade Council commends the WTO for convening this crucial meeting and addressing the pressing issues that impact global trade and cooperation.