Berliner Boersenzeitung - WTO chief says 'cautiously optimistic' ahead of high-stakes meet

AED 4.015568
AFN 77.462602
ALL 100.23676
AMD 424.436429
ANG 1.969812
AOA 954.017417
ARS 1008.815402
AUD 1.621988
AWG 1.968416
AZN 1.86165
BAM 1.955282
BBD 2.206789
BDT 128.406009
BGN 1.954876
BHD 0.41207
BIF 3147.099456
BMD 1.093261
BND 1.46516
BOB 7.552279
BRL 5.947639
BSD 1.092996
BTN 91.316938
BWP 14.769049
BYN 3.576858
BYR 21427.907663
BZD 2.20309
CAD 1.494799
CDF 3104.860599
CHF 0.969329
CLF 0.036075
CLP 995.410813
CNY 7.936198
CNH 7.94833
COP 4350.00738
CRC 571.345437
CUC 1.093261
CUP 28.971406
CVE 110.254471
CZK 25.292581
DJF 194.594297
DKK 7.459563
DOP 64.493841
DZD 146.677282
EGP 52.705875
ERN 16.398909
ETB 62.771205
FJD 2.433871
FKP 0.842423
GBP 0.839028
GEL 2.968217
GGP 0.842423
GHS 16.853082
GIP 0.842423
GMD 74.095741
GNF 9413.508082
GTQ 8.474191
GYD 228.659797
HKD 8.535731
HNL 27.066835
HRK 7.55219
HTG 144.276222
HUF 391.338091
IDR 17631.06828
ILS 3.968727
IMP 0.842423
INR 91.355971
IQD 1431.763269
IRR 46026.271127
ISK 149.30625
JEP 0.842423
JMD 170.973672
JOD 0.774795
JPY 171.200279
KES 142.124422
KGS 92.881012
KHR 4488.571347
KMF 494.20844
KPW 983.934918
KRW 1507.890108
KWD 0.334035
KYD 0.91078
KZT 519.670372
LAK 24209.688007
LBP 97875.553014
LKR 332.002113
LRD 213.125748
LSL 19.882001
LTL 3.228114
LVL 0.661302
LYD 5.284495
MAD 10.743274
MDL 19.355443
MGA 4917.530382
MKD 61.61757
MMK 3550.867767
MNT 3771.749431
MOP 8.788639
MRU 43.262548
MUR 50.913229
MVR 16.832832
MWK 1895.149676
MXN 19.437405
MYR 5.09842
MZN 69.859342
NAD 19.882001
NGN 1765.441372
NIO 40.236158
NOK 11.760511
NPR 146.112046
NZD 1.79696
OMR 0.420867
PAB 1.092996
PEN 4.060512
PGK 4.279591
PHP 63.695524
PKR 304.422814
PLN 4.295164
PYG 8253.815073
QAR 3.987045
RON 4.968103
RSD 117.037884
RUB 96.371801
RWF 1431.210956
SAR 4.100477
SBD 9.246366
SCR 14.832327
SDG 657.049748
SEK 11.511668
SGD 1.465762
SHP 0.842423
SLE 24.978056
SLL 22925.132054
SOS 624.640348
SRD 32.463288
STD 22628.287033
SVC 9.561469
SYP 2746.850447
SZL 19.877102
THB 39.283591
TJS 11.639763
TMT 3.837345
TND 3.391702
TOP 2.58168
TRY 36.182875
TTD 7.419291
TWD 35.551191
TZS 2901.823052
UAH 45.33757
UGX 4043.61384
USD 1.093261
UYU 43.888382
UZS 13753.359249
VEF 3960393.939438
VES 39.875717
VND 27686.82457
VUV 129.794125
WST 3.065075
XAF 655.894363
XAG 0.035359
XAU 0.000443
XCD 2.954591
XDR 0.824421
XOF 655.894363
XPF 119.331742
YER 273.670464
ZAR 19.87209
ZMK 9840.662648
ZMW 28.499278
ZWL 352.029466
  • SCS




  • CMSD








  • GSK




  • BTI




  • CMSC




  • RIO




  • BP








  • NGG




  • BCE




  • AZN




  • BCC




  • JRI




  • RELX




  • VOD




WTO chief says 'cautiously optimistic' ahead of high-stakes meet
WTO chief says 'cautiously optimistic' ahead of high-stakes meet / Photo: Genya SAVILOV - AFP/File

WTO chief says 'cautiously optimistic' ahead of high-stakes meet

The World Trade Organization chief voiced cautious optimism Sunday as global trade ministers gather to tackle food security threatened by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, overfishing and equitable access to Covid vaccines.

Text size:

Speaking just hours before the opening of the WTO's first ministerial meeting in nearly five years, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged that "the road will be bumpy and rocky, there may be a few landmines on the way."

But she told journalists she was "cautiously optimistic that we'll get one or two deliverables", adding she would consider that "a success".

With its first ministerial meeting in years, the WTO faces pressure to finally eke out long-sought trade deals and show unity amid the still raging pandemic and an impending global hunger crisis.

Top of the agenda as the four-day meeting kicks off is the toll Russia's war in Ukraine, traditionally a breadbasket that feeds hundreds of millions of people, is having on food security.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said the bloc had been "working hard with all the members to prepare a multilateral food security package," and slammed Russia for "using food and grain as a weapon of war".

The WTO is hoping to keep criticism of Russia's war in Ukraine to the first day of talks, when many of the more than 100 ministers due to attend are expected to issue blistering statements.

But with many flatly refusing to negotiate directly with Moscow, there are fears this could bleed into the following days, when the WTO wants to focus on nailing down elusive trade deals.

"There is a real risk that things could go off the rails next week," a Geneva-based diplomatic source said.

- Fisheries deal in sight? -

The tensions have not curbed Okonjo-Iweala's zeal to press for agreements on a range of issues during the first ministerial gathering on her watch, especially as the global trade body strives to prove its worth after nearly a decade with no new large trade deals.

There is cautious optimism that countries could finally agree on banning subsidies that contribute to illegal and unregulated fishing, after more than 20 years of negotiations.

The WTO says talks have never been this close to the finish line, but diplomats remain cautious.

The negotiations "have made progress recently, but these remain difficult subjects," a diplomatic source in Geneva told AFP.

One of the main sticking points has been so-called special and differential treatment (SDT) for developing countries, like major fishing nation India, which can request exemptions.

A draft text sent to the ministers for review proposes exemptions should not apply to member states accounting for an as yet undefined share of the global volume of fishing.

The duration of exemptions also remains undefined.

Environmental groups say anything beyond 10 years would be catastrophic. India has demanded a 25-year exemption.

- India 'creating problems' -

"Twenty-five years is an unreasonable length of time," Isabel Jarrett, head of the Pew Charitable Trusts' project to end harmful fisheries subsidies, told AFP, warning so much leeway would be "devastating for fish stocks".

Colombian Ambassador Santiago Wills, who chairs the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations, stressed the urgency of securing a deal.

"The longer we wait, the more the fish lose. And the more the fish lose, the more we all lose," he said in a statement Saturday.

India however appears to be stubbornly sticking to its demands on fisheries and in other areas, jeopardising the chances of reaching deals since WTO agreements require full consensus backing.

"There is not a single issue that India is not blocking," a Geneva-based ambassador said, singling out WTO reform and agriculture.

A source with knowledge of the negotiations towards a text on food security also said "the Indians are still creating problems".

Elvire Fabry, a senior research fellow at the Jacques Delors Institute, said India had appeared eager to "throw more weight around" in international organisations, warning New Delhi was capable of scuppering talks.

- Patent waiver? -

The ministers are also set to seek a joint WTO response to the pandemic, although significant obstacles remain.

Back in October 2020, India and South Africa called for intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines and other pandemic responses to be suspended in a bid to ensure more equitable access in poorer nations.

After multiple rounds of talks, the European Union, the United States, India and South Africa hammered out a compromise that has become the basis for a draft text sent to ministers.

The text, which would allow most developing countries, although not China, to produce Covid vaccines without authorisation from patent holders, is still facing opposition from both sides.

Britain and Switzerland are reluctant to sign up, arguing along with the pharmaceutical industry that the waiver would undermine investment in innovation.

Public interest groups meanwhile say the text falls far short of what is needed by covering only vaccines and not Covid treatments and diagnostics.

"The negotiations are still aeons away from ensuring access to lifesaving Covid medical tools for everyone, everywhere," medical charity Doctors Without Borders warned.