WTO reschedules ministerial, now set for June

GENEVA (Reuters) – Trade ministers are now due to convene for the first time in more than four years in June, the World Trade Organization said on Wednesday, announcing the latest dates for a meeting that aims to break deadlocks on issues from fishing subsidies to intellectual property rights for vaccines.

In late November, the WTO was forced to postpone the conference after Swiss travel restrictions due to the Omicron variant meant many planned face-to-face meetings could not take place.

“WTO members agreed, during (Wednesday’s) General Council meeting, to reconvene the 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva during the week of 13 June,” the Geneva-based trade watchdog said in a brief statement.

The talks have been widely seen as a test of the WTO’s relevance.

The WTO has only managed one update of its global rules in its near 27-year history, the red tape-cutting Trade Facilitation Agreement, and its 164 members have looked far from agreement in its most active talks – on curbing fishing subsidies and spreading COVID-19 vaccines more widely.

India, South Africa and other developing countries are calling for a waiver of intellectual property rights for vaccines and other COVID-19 treatments to make them more available in poorer countries. U.S. President Joe Biden has said he supports a waiver for vaccines.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Tim Ahmann)

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