Ministers gather for high-stakes WTO meet

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The World Trade Organization gathers ministers in Geneva Sunday to tackle pressing issues including global food security threatened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, overfishing and equitable access to Covid vaccines.

With its first ministerial meeting in years, WTO faces pressure to finally eke out long-sought trade deals and show unity amid the still raging pandemic and an impending global hunger crisis.

Top of the agenda as the four-day meeting kicks off is the toll Russia’s war in Ukraine — traditionally a breadbasket that feeds hundreds of millions of people — is having on food security.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said the bloc had been “working hard with all the members to prepare a multilateral food security package,” slamming Russia for “using food and grain as a weapon of war”.

The WTO is hoping to isolate criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine to the first day of talks, when many of the more than 100 ministers due to attend are expected to issue blistering statements.

But with many flatly refusing to negotiate directly with Moscow, there are fears the issue could bleed into the following days, when WTO wants to focus on nailing down long-elusive trade deals.

“There is a real risk that things could go off the rails next week,” a Geneva-based diplomatic source said.–AFP

 

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