Daily Management Review

WTO The First Major Diplomatic Casualty Of New Breakout Of New Coronavirus Variant Outbreak


WTO The First Major Diplomatic Casualty Of New Breakout Of New Coronavirus Variant Outbreak
The new coronavirus strain that was very recently identified in South Africa has force the World Trade Organization (WTO) to postpone its meeting of its ministerial committee for the first time in the last four years due to the degrading Covid-19 situation being caused by the new virus. The WHO thus has become the first major diplomatic victim of the new South African coronavirus strain.
It is being expected that the related ministers of the WTO member countries will get together for the postponed meeting sometime in the coming week and participate in a conference that is widely viewed as an occasion to review the real value of the global trade regulatory organization.
Late on Friday night, an agreement was reached among the members of its organization to postpone the scheduled ministerial conference, the WTO announced, after here were reports of fresh outbreak of the virus impacting international travel as a number of countries imposed travel restrictions, and decided not to meet in person in Geneva for now.
The WTO has not announced a rescheduled meeting of the ministers.
The new variant first emerging from South Africa, known scientifically as the B.1.1.529 variant, hgas been classified by the World Health Organisation as a "variant of concern". The global health body has warned that this new variant can spread more quickly than most of the other variants of the coronavirus that have been detected so far. Examination of whether this new variant is resistant ot the existing Covid-19 vaccines is also being done by scientists. 
Direct flights from South Africa and the surrounding region were banned on Friday by Switzerland, where the headquarters of the WTO is situated, along with imposition of Covid-19 testing and quarantine requirements for travellers arriving into the country from othr parts of the world – including those from Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
The Geneva-based trade regulator was planning to meet in person, but new restrictions on delegations meant major players like South Africa and the Brussels-based European Commission would have been restricted to a mostly online presence.
Even before the postponement, prospects for the future were not very promising.
The WTO has only managed to implement one update to its rules for all countries in its 27-year existence, the red tape-slashing Trade Facilitation Agreement, and its 164 members were not to be in agreement during its most active discussions regarding reducing fishing subsidies and distributing COVID-19 vaccinations more widely.
India, South Africa and other countries in the developing world are soliciting the abolition of Intellectual property (IP) rights to vaccines and other COVID-19-related treatments. U.S. President Joe Biden declared on Friday that he would support an exemption of vaccine rights.
The postponement did not mean negotiations should stop, said WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
"On the contrary, delegations in Geneva should be fully empowered to close as many gaps as possible. This new variant reminds us once again of the urgency of the work we are charged with," she said in a statement.
The news was "deflating, to say the least", said Santiago Wills, the Colombian WTO ambassador who chairs the fishing subsidy talks, but also pledged to continue to work for achieving an agreement to save global fish stocks.