WTO’s big conference postponed

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Next week’s World Trade Organization ministerial conference, the global trade body’s biggest gathering in four years, was postponed at the last minute Friday due to the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.

The WTO hoped the four-day gathering in Geneva would breathe new life into the crippled organisation, which has been stuck for years trying to make progress on resolving issues like fishery subsidies.

New director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was also hoping, against the odds, to make progress towards a deal on lifting COVID vaccine patents, proving the WTO had a relevant role to play in combating the pandemic.

But the conference was postponed four days before it was due to start, hours after Omicron was declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.

Fears surrounding the spread of the variant saw countries banning flights from southern Africa, where the strain was first detected on November 9.—AFP

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