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WTO postponement a ‘significant blow’ to possible COVID vaccine, fishing deals -Breaking


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO A sign from the 12th Ministerial Conference is pictured in Geneva at the World Trade Organization’s headquarters. It was taken November 25, 2021. Picture taken November 25, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photograph

Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters). -The delay of this week’s World Trade Organization ministerial conference almost ensures months of impasse on fish subsidies, as well as a greater spread of COVID-19 vaccins.

Expectations of new agreements had already been muted ahead of the gathering, which was postponed late on Friday after new Swiss travel restrictions due to the Omicron variant meant many planned face-to-face meetings could not happen.

WTO proposed Monday that its Ministerial Conference be held in the first week March 2022, provided conditions permit. But, there has not been a new date.

Dmitry Grozoubinski is the executive director at Geneva Trade Platform. He said that ministerial meeting were crucial for any agreement because they brought together political decision makers and established deadlines.

It’s an enormous blow. It’s a political gap that the gaps in COVID-19 on fisheries and IP are. He said that it’s not fatal as they plan to reconvene.

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (WTO Director-General) stated that negotiations shouldn’t stop, and that Geneva delegations must work to fill in any gaps.

She said, “This variant reminds me once more of the urgency for the work I am charged with.”

On Monday, delegations began to discuss a South African and Indian proposal to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. A counter-proposal from the EU was also made to allow flexibility in WTO rules.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, a medical charity that helps people in need of healthcare, stated that it was impossible for the world to waste any more time when millions are at risk.

It said that countries opposed to and diluting the waiver should immediately stop their stalling tactics, and adopt urgent measures to obtain a comprehensive waiver.

Omicron supports the argument that waiver advocates make when they argue that insufficient vaccine supply to countries with poor populations increases the chance of new, potentially deadly coronavirus strains.

U.S. President Joe Biden reiterated that he believes in the waiver of IP protections to vaccines and said the announcement of the new version raised concerns about the urgency of moving fast.

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