New Delhi: The World Trade Organization (WTO) has postponed the ministerial level meet, scheduled from November 30 in Geneva, for an indefinite period due to an outbreak of a particularly transmissible strain of the COVID-19 virus.
According to a WTO statement, no date has been set for the rescheduling of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC).
The announcement of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in Switzerland and many other European countries led to the General Council Chair Ambassador. Dacio Castillo (Honduras) called an emergency meeting on Friday night of all WTO members to inform them of the situation.
“Given these unfortunate developments and the uncertainty that they cause, we see no alternative but to propose to postpone the Ministerial Conference and reconvene it as soon as possible when conditions allow,” Castillo told the General Council, which is the highest decision making body of the WTO after the ministerial conference.
Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the travel constraints meant that many ministers and senior delegates could not have participated in face-to-face negotiations at the conference.
WTO members were unanimous in their support of the recommendations from the Director-General and the General Council Chair, and they pledged to continue working to narrow their differences on key topics like the WTO’s response to the pandemic and the negotiations to draft rules slashing harmful fisheries subsidies, the statement said.
“The General Council agreed late Friday 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,” it said.
This marks the second time that the pandemic has forced a postponement of the 12th Ministerial Conference. The meeting was originally due to take place in June 2020 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
India has been a member of the WTO since 1995.
WTO is a 164-member Geneva-based multilateral organisation which frames rules for global exports and imports besides adjudicating in trade disputes between the member countries.