Breaking News
Investing Pro 0
💎 Access the Market Tools Trusted by Thousands of Investors Get Started

Factbox-What could the WTO ministerial conference achieve?

Published Jun 03, 2022 02:16AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured outside the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, September 28, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - Ministers from across the globe are convening for a conference at the World Trade Organization in Geneva for the first time in more than four years from June 12-15. It comes at a critical juncture for the body and for global trade.

The meeting, delayed twice by COVID-19, is a chance for the 27-year-old body to prove it can respond to what Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has described as a "polycrisis" of economic, health, environmental and security challenges.

Nobody expects a package of deals but Okonjo-Iweala has urged negotiators to work continually to get "at least one or two" concrete outcomes.

Here are the main topics:


Okonjo-Iweala has called COVID-19 vaccine inequity "unconscionable" and given top priority to a deal to facilitate the flow of vaccines more widely.

Even though demand for COVID-19 shots has tapered off, India, South Africa and some 100 other backers are seeking a potential waiver of intellectual property rights for vaccines and treatments.

However, WTO members remain divided over a draft deal for vaccines negotiated between the four main parties (India, South Africa, the European Union and the United States) that was forged to break an 18-month deadlock. Protest groups are urging members to reject it and China has lodged an objection.


Separate negotiations are aimed at removing subsidies that contribute to overfishing, a step that environmentalists say is important to help fish stocks recover.

But talks have been going on for 20 years and attempts at a deal failed at the last ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires in 2017. WTO deputy head Xiangchen Zhang said the fisheries outcome would be a "critical test" of the WTO's credibility.

Colombian chair Santiago Wills says a global deal is "within reach" but considerable differences remain, including over forced labour and the scale of exemptions for developing countries that could include the world's top fishing nation China. The latest draft deal from November contained 26 pairs of square brackets indicating unresolved areas.

India has been one of the biggest critics.


WTO chief Okonjo-Iweala is holding private consultations with a group of key economies aiming for a response to the food crisis driven partly by export disruptions from major wheat exporters Ukraine and Russia.

One option is a so-called "ministerial declaration" on ending tariffs on humanitarian food deliveries as proposed by Singapore, but even this does not yet command consensus, delegates say.

A draft agreement on other aspects of agricultural policy may be submitted to ministers ahead of the conference, but sources say vast gaps remained on key areas, including the form and level of allowable subsidies.


A ban on import duties or so-called "electronic transmissions" worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year is up for renewal.

The moratorium has been in place since 1998 but South Africa and India have launched a separate proposal to lift it. They have opposed an extension in the past, citing lost customs revenues, but have not so far blocked it.


All WTO members say the organisation's rule book needs updating, although they disagree on how to do so.

Most pressingly, its dispute appeals court has been paralysed for nearly two years since then-U.S. president Donald Trump blocked new adjudicator appointments, which has quelled the appetite to seek redress of trade disputes through the WTO.

Okonjo-Iweala hopes members can agree a roadmap for reforming the dispute settlement procedure at the meeting.

However, delegates say there is little common ground, with some wanting only small tweaks and others, such as the United States, seeking a broad overhaul of a system described by its top trade official Katherine Tai as "unwieldy and bureaucratic".


Negotiations began in 2020 and are in a preliminary phase, but some experts think the environment has the potential to give the body a new vitality and purpose.

New Zealand submitted a fossil fuel phase-out proposal but most delegates see this as too ambitious. If a deal on cutting fishing subsidies is agreed, that could give environmental efforts some momentum.

Factbox-What could the WTO ministerial conference achieve?

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.
  • Any comment you publish, together with your profile, will be public on and may be indexed and available through third party search engines, such as Google.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email