In the face of “polycrisis”, the head of the WTO warns against the bumpy road to an agreement

In the face of "polycrisis", the head of the WTO warns against the bumpy road to an agreement

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the head of the World Trade Organization, voiced cautious confidence on Sunday that the more than 100 trade ministers meeting in Geneva this week will reach one or two global agreements, but warned that the road ahead would be difficult and rocky. Nigeria’s director-general stated that the world has changed in the nearly five years since the WTO’s last ministerial session. “I wish I could say something positive.”

“Let me be clear, even landing one or two will not be an easy road. The road will be bumpy and rocky. There may be a landmine along the way,” Okonjo-Iweala said, adding she was “cautiously optimistic” that the meeting would conclude with one or two deals. She also cautioned ministers they should not expect to achieve everything on their countries’ wish lists and recognize that compromises are never perfect.

It has certainly become more complex,” she told a news conference before the meeting, listing the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and major food and energy crises as pieces of a “polycrisis”. She urged trade ministers to go the extra mile over the coming days to achieve agreements such as reducing fishing subsidies, boosting access to COVID-19 vaccines, addressing food security, and set a course for reform of the WTO itself.

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