wto:  WTO puts off key Geneva meet over variant concerns – Times of India

wto: WTO puts off key Geneva meet over variant concerns – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Four days before kick-off, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) put off a ministerial meeting that was to decide on crucial global rules, citing heightened risk after the outbreak of the “particularly transmissible” African variant of the coronavirus.
The decision, which came on Friday night, followed a fresh Covid wave in Europe with countries such as Switzerland hit particularly hard. Switzerland has one of the lowest vaccination rate in western Europe with an estimated 65% population having been jabbed. The WTO, however, steered clear of the situation in Europe and blamed the new variant found in parts of Africa for the indefinite postponement.
“The General Council agreed to postpone the imminent ministerial conference after an outbreak of a particularly transmissible strain of the Covid-19 virus led several governments to impose travel restrictions that would have prevented many ministers from reaching Geneva,” a statement from the global trade body said. WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the travel constraints meant that many senior delegates could not have participated in face-to-face negotiations. This would render participation on an equal basis impossible, she said.
Several Indian delegates were worried about travelling to Geneva due to the surge in infections.Ministers from over 160 countries were scheduled to meet from November 30 to Decemeber 3 to decide on several crucial issues, including a patent waiver for Covid vaccines, drugs and medical devices, which will help the poor, especially in Africa. The decision has, however, been blocked by a handful of European Union members led by Germany, along with the UK, Switzerland and Japan.
The WTO DG and the General Council Chair Ambassador Dacio Castillo of Honduras called upon WTO members to maintain the negotiation momentum. So far, the members have made little headway on the talks, with several of India’s concerns yet to be addressed.This is the second time that Covid-19, which was first detected in China in late 2019, has forced a postponement of the 12th Ministerial meet. It was originally due to take place in June 2020 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Although the General Council decided to move the meeting to Geneva, Kazakhstan was chosen to chair the meeting in Geneva.

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