U.S. trade chief sees ‘difficult logistical challenges’ for WTO summit

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Katherine C. Tai testifies before Senate Finance Committee in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Wednesday spoke by phone with the head of the World Trade Organization and acknowledged the “difficult logistical challenges” facing an upcoming WTO ministerial conference, her office said.

Tai thanked WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for her strong leadership since taking office in March, and the two agreed that the WTO must “demonstrate its ability to advance a global trade agenda that increases shared prosperity.”

The global trade watchdog is due to hold a major ministerial conference of its 164 members in November and December.

A U.S. delegate told the WTO in June that he saw “very little scope for negotiated outcomes” ahead of MC12, as the conference is known, citing the difficulties of negotiating in person given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting is set to be a critical test of Okonjo-Iweala’s leadership of the global trade body, which has not concluded a multilateral deal for years.

WTO members are set to negotiate a range of topics at the meeting in November and December, including trade and the pandemic as well as agriculture and fisheries.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Mark Porter)

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