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Pandemic, trade, and food security take center stage at WTO conference

Pandemic, trade, and food security take center stage at WTO conference

Geneva: World Trade Organization(WTO) members have held intensive discussions on the response to the Covid-19 pandemic including the IP response to the pandemic, and trade and food security.

The 12th Ministerial level meeting of WTO is underway in Geneva since June 12. Trade ministers of more than one hundred countries are attending the session.  A Nepali delegation led by Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Dilendra Badu is attending the conference. 

On June 13, there were thematic sessions on pandemics and looming food crises in the world. Due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, the supply of food grains has been badly hit resulting in high inflation across the world which has taken a central stage at WTO.

On the WTO response to the pandemic, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala noted the broad convergence on the Draft Ministerial Declaration on the WTO response to the COVID-19 pandemic and preparedness for future pandemics and on the need to resolve the five outstanding brackets, indicating areas still under discussion, in the TRIPS waiver decision.

On food security, the director-general stated that there was widespread support for the Draft Ministerial Declaration on Trade and Food Security — “almost a convergence although there are some members whose needs have to be addressed”. WTO is likely to make some declarations on looming food security on June 15.

Timur Suleimenov, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the President of Kazakhstan and MC12 Chair, said that listening to members over the past two days reaffirmed his belief that “credible MC12 outcomes are within our reach.”

 “I think there is a general sense that we can actually achieve in MC12 and that it is even closer than we thought at the beginning of the Conference,” he added.

At the thematic session on the World Food Programme (WFP),  according to WTO, members discussed the Draft Ministerial Decision which pledges not to impose any export prohibitions or restrictions on foodstuffs purchases for humanitarian purposes by the WFP, noting that the WFP takes procurement decisions on the basis of the principle of “do no harm” to the supplying country.

The facilitator, Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization, Trade, and Enterprise Development of Kenya, said the draft decision gained massive support from almost all members with the exception of two. She said it has been a very productive meeting which underscored the commitment of WTO members to deal effectively with global crises, including the current food crisis.

She noted that she, the DG, and the agriculture negotiations chair, Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta of Costa Rica, will consult with these two members, with a view to achieving consensus on the text. She emphasized the consultation will not entail any change to the current draft texts.

“My intention was to get an early agreement on these texts so that we could focus on the Draft Ministerial Decision on Agriculture where more work remains to be done,” she said.