WTO cancels Ministerial Conference in Switzerland due to Ômicron variant

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The Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (OMC), which was supposed to take place from Tuesday (30) in Geneva, Switzerland, was postponed due to the outbreak of the new strain of the new coronavirus, the variant Omicron. There is no forecast when the meeting will take place.

The decision to suspend the main summit of the body was taken by its general council on Friday night (26) after some countries imposed travel restrictions that prevent ministers from arriving at the meeting – the Switzerland also adopted restrictive measures.

The summit, which is biannual, should have taken place in June 2020 at Kazakhstan, but had already had the date and headquarters changed because of the pandemic. The last Ministerial Conference took place four years ago, in Buenos Aires, and it was hoped that, now, the conditions would be created for the reform of the organ to begin to advance.

On Thursday (25), the director general of the WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stated at a press conference that the meeting had already started informally, as several ministers were already in Geneva. “Things are moving forward,” he commented.

Okonjo-Iweala also said he hoped the conference would allow the WTO to advance on issues related to the pandemic, such as more transparent contracts and vaccine donations, as well as investments by manufacturers in the production of immunizations in a more geographically decentralized way. “It would be nice if we could get a package on these lines.”

The director-general of the agency highlighted, however, that the negotiations to suspend the intellectual property rights of the vaccines against a Covid-19 were locked. “The formal path is stopped. We tried things informally, but conversations also stopped,” he said.

The breaking of patents on immunizing agents was suggested by India e South Africa at the WTO and received support from the United States, but was rejected by European countries. Brazil was against the proposal, but is now seeking a “consensual” agreement. “We hope ministers come up with a response to the pandemic that includes a compromise on intellectual property,” he said on Thursday.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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