WTO Postpones Ministerial Conference Amid Concerns Over New Covid Variant ‘Omicron’

| Updated: 27 November, 2021 1:30 pm IST
12th WTO ministerial conference postponed

GENEVA: The World Trade Organization postponed the 12TH Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva, Switzerland on Saturday following the discovery of ‘Omicron’, a new strain of the coronavirus. The conference was scheduled to take place from 30 November 2021 to 3 December 2021.

The Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on Friday.

The notice released by WHO said ” Further to the urgent informal general council meeting this evening, 26 November 2021, we would like to confirm that given the serious epidemiological situation, holding MC12 as previously agreed will regrettably no longer be feasible. We will reconvene it as soon as conditions allow.”

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WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala mentioned that the travel constraints meant that many ministers and senior delegates could not have participated in face-to-face negotiations at the conference. This would render participation on an equal basis impossible. “Many delegations have long maintained that meeting virtually do not offer the kind of interaction necessary for holding complex negotiations on politically sensitive issues,” she added.

Anabel Gonzalez, WTO’s deputy DG, also tweeted informing that the #MC12 has been postponed. The full membership is behind the decision of the general council chair @CastilloDacio and DG @NOIweala. Health, fairness and inclusiveness informed the call. It is the right decision. Work will and must continue.

The World Trade Organisation ministerial conference is the topmost decision-making body, which usually meets every two years. It brings together all members of the WTO, all of which are countries or customs unions. The Ministerial Conference can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements.

No date has been set for the rescheduling of the Ministerial Conference.

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